Senate Urged to Beat Back EPA Carbon Rule Attacks

Energy and Climate Report provides current, thorough coverage of clean energy, efficiency, and climate change legislation, regulation, policy, legal developments, and trends in the U.S. and...

By Anthony Adragna and Andrew Childers

Nov. 16 — More than 110 environmental advocacy groups Nov. 16 urged the Senate not to support two resolutions that would nullify the centerpieces of President Barack Obama’s efforts to combat climate change.

“We strongly urge you to oppose these resolutions that put the health of our children and families at risk, threaten the quality of our air, and strip the EPA of the tools to address dangerous carbon pollution,” the letter said.

An aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Bloomberg BNA the resolutions would be voted on Nov. 17. Both resolutions (S.J. Res. 23; S.J. Res. 24) were introduced under the provisions of the Congressional Review Act. They would kill off the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan and a separate regulation setting carbon dioxide emissions limits for new and modified power plants.

Signatories include the Union of Concerned Scientists, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, League of Conservation Voters, Center for Biological Diversity, Clean Air Task Force and

The resolutions would face a simple majority threshold to clear the Senate, which they are expected to get, but would need the support of two-thirds of both congressional chambers to override a sure veto from the president. Based on past voting patterns, they would fall well short of that level.

Companion efforts (H.J. Res. 71; H.J. Res. 72) in the House also are likely to proceed with the full House Energy and Commerce Committee expected to approve their own resolutions Nov. 18.

Both regulations were formally published Oct. 23 (80 Fed. Reg. 64,510; 80 Fed. Reg. 64,662).

The EPA's Clean Power Plan (RIN 2060-AR33) sets carbon dioxide emissions limits for the power sector in each state. The standards would be implemented by state regulators. The new source performance standards (RIN 2060-AQ91) set similar carbon dioxide emissions limits for new power plants.

Latest Fight Over Costs, Benefits 

While Congress prepared its formal attempts to block the regulations, environmental groups and the petroleum industry sparred over the Clean Power Plan's costs and benefits to consumers in separate reports released Nov. 16.

The American Petroleum institute said in a Nov. 16 analysis that the EPA's Clean Power Plan prioritizes new renewable energy sources while downplaying the natural gas boom and other low-carbon generation options such as nuclear and hydropower that have dramatically reduced greenhouse emissions from the U.S.

“These reductions are the result of market forces. They have nothing to do with government programs and everything to do with the fact that the United States is the world’s leading producer of natural gas,” the American Petroleum Institute said. “With such an abundant supply of affordable fuel on hand, power plants already have an incentive to use cleaner burning natural gas without government interference.”

Public Citizen said in its own Nov. 16 analysis, however, that the EPA's rule could lower residential electricity prices in every state covered by the requirements. The analysis found that electricity rates would necessarily increase in 2020 as states and utilities prepare to comply with the Clean Power Plan, which takes effect in 2022. The smallest rate increase would be felt in Kansas at 0.04 percent while New Jersey and Delaware would experience the largest rate increases at 6.3 percent.

But after that initial increase, rates would fall again by 2025 with residents of Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut seeing their rates drop as much as 7.3 percent if states choose to comply with the rule using an emissions rate-based system. Under a mass-based compliance option, New York would see the largest rate decrease with a 6.7 percent drop, according to the report.

New Clean Power Plan Lawsuit Filed 

In another development Nov. 16, LG&E and KU Energy LLC became the latest utility to challenge the Clean Power Plan. The company filed its lawsuit Nov. 16 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (LG&E and KU Energy LLC v. EPA, D.C. Cir. , No. 15-1418, 11/16/15).

A majority of states, led by West Virginia, have filed similar lawsuits with 18 coming to the EPA's defense. No new states are expected to join the litigation at this point.

EPA to Examine Biomass 

The EPA also separately announced that it intends to hold a workshop in 2016 on the role biomass can play as a compliance option under the Clean Power Plan.

“We look forward to reviewing plans that incorporate well-developed forestry and other land management programs producing biomass that can qualify under the guidelines laid out in the CPP, and we are confident that the CPP offers sufficient lead time and flexibility for states to develop approvable programs,” Janet McCabe, the EPA's acting assistant administrator for air and radiation, said in a Nov. 16 blog post.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anthony Adragna in Washington at and Andrew Childers in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at

The letter from more than 110 environmental groups is available at

Text of LG&E and KU Energy LLC v. EPA is available at