Whitfield, Manchin Release Draft Legislation That Would Guide EPA Power Plant Rules

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By Anthony Adragna  

Oct. 28 --Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) released a discussion draft bill Oct. 28 that would restrict the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to set greenhouse gas emissions standards for power plants.

Under the bill, the EPA could not regulate emissions from existing power plants until Congress passes a law specifying when the standards would be effective. It would also impose a number of conditions on proposed greenhouse gas emissions limits for new power plants.

The draft bill would require the EPA to establish separate standards for natural gas and coal-fired power plants, set emissions limits that have been proven at six different commercial power plants for at least a year, and create a separate category for lignite coal that would use emissions standards that have been achieved by at least three units for at least a year.

The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that Whitfield chairs will hold a legislative hearing on the discussion draft Nov. 14 and hopes to finish its consideration of the bill before this session of Congress ends. Janet McCabe, who heads the EPA Office of Air and Radiation, is scheduled to testify at that hearing, Whitfield said.

Manchin said he believes the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will consider the measure as well, but he has not yet asked the committee for a hearing.

“You should not be able to regulate what hasn't been legislated,” Manchin said. “We've got people on both sides of the issue, far right and far left, that aren't going to like it because it doesn't have something different. We found that this strikes what we feel is a consensus, middle, doable procedure that we can abide by.”

Role for Congress

Whitfield and Manchin's bill would also require the EPA to submit a report to Congress about the economic impacts and projected impacts on global greenhouse gas emissions of any regulation related to power plants.

“This is too important of an issue for a few regulators at EPA, and even the president, unilaterally to decide,” Whitfield said. “This is something we need a national debate about and the American people need to be aware of all aspects of this issue.”

The legislation would only apply to electric utility generating units, Whitfield said.

Manchin and Whitfield both stressed that they would not try to completely stop the regulations through the bill, but instead require the EPA to follow certain guidelines in completing those rulemakings.

Senate Democrats Targeted

Manchin said he would begin aggressive outreach to other Democrats from energy-producing states. He mentioned Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) as possible supporters.

Other Democrats Manchin said he believed might be amenable to the legislation were Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Bob Casey (Pa.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jon Tester (Mont.) and Mark Warner (Va.).

Whitfield said he has heard from multiple Democrats in the House who would like to co-sponsor the legislation.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) condemned the bill in a statement, calling it “scientific lunacy.”

President Barack Obama directed the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants as the centerpiece of his national climate action plan. The EPA unveiled its proposed new source performance standards for future power plants Sept. 20, and has begun a series of listening sessions to solicit input as it prepares standards for existing power plants .

Multiple members of Congress, including Whitfield, have said the EPA's proposed regulations would cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and cripple the economies of coal-producing regions around the country.


To contact the reporter on this story: Anthony Adragna in Washington at aadragna@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Sullivan at jsullivan@bna.com

A discussion draft of the Manchin-Whitfield bill is available at http://1.usa.gov/1bwhg3L.