Whitfield Plans Legislation to Postpone State Compliance With Clean Power Plan

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By Andrew Childers

March 23 — Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) plans to introduce a bill that would delay implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan and allow states to opt out of the carbon dioxide regulation if it would increase utility rates or jeopardize reliability.

The Ratepayer Protection Act, which Whitfield is distributing in the House for discussion, would postpone a requirement for states to submit plans to the EPA for implementing the carbon dioxide standards for existing power plants until legal challenges have been resolved.

The Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing April 14 on the Ratepayer Protection Act, Whitfield said.

“This rule is particularly controversial. It's unprecedented in the power they're to grab here from the states,” Whitfield, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power, told reporters March 23.

Whitfield said he plans to introduce the bill within the next two weeks, along with a separate bill that would target EPA proposed carbon dioxide standards for new power plants.

Response to State Requests 

The bill responds to state requests for additional time to develop compliance plans for the Clean Power Plan, Whitfield said. States would have to submit their compliance plans within one year of the EPA finalizing the rule, unlike other regulations that give states as long as three years to develop compliance measures, Whitfield said.

The EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan (RIN 2060-AR33) would set carbon dioxide emissions rates for the power sector in each state. State regulators would develop their own plans to comply with the emissions rates. The EPA could issue federal plans for states that choose not to comply. The final rule is expected this summer.

Whitfield acknowledged the role human activity plays in climate change and said his bill would recognize EPA authority to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act while alleviating any uncertainty states may have about investing time and resources to develop a plan to comply with a rule that could be struck down by the courts.

“Many states are asking us for relief,” he said.

The bill also would allow state governors to opt out of compliance with the proposed rule if they could show it would have “a significant adverse effect” on electricity rates or grid reliability.

For now, Whitfield said he plans to pursue the Ratepayers Protection Act and his upcoming bill targeting carbon dioxide standards for new power plants as standalone legislation rather than as part of a larger package of bills.

McConnell Urges Boycott 

The bill comes at a time when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is urging states not to submit their own compliance plans, forcing the EPA to issue federal plans instead. McConnell recommended states boycott compliance in a March 19 letter to the National Governors Association, which a White House aide called “outside the bounds of the position that he was elected to”.

Whitfield said he has not discussed that strategy with McConnell. He also hasn't discussed his latest bill with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has sponsored companion bills in the Senate previously.

“Like Congressman Whitfield, Sen. Manchin is very concerned about the EPA’s existing source rule and will continue to work with his colleagues to make sure regulations strike a balance between environmental concerns and economic growth,” said a spokeswoman for Manchin.

A congressional aide said similar legislation has been discussed with Senate staff.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Childers in Washington at achilders@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com