Senate Bids to Kill Carbon Rules Likely Before Paris Climate Talks

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By Anthony Adragna

Nov. 5 — Senate votes to overturn the centerpieces of President Barack Obama's efforts on climate change will almost certainly occur during November before nations gather in Paris to negotiate an international agreement on climate change, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 5.

Under the provisions of the Congressional Review Act, resolutions of disapproval would be ready for Senate consideration Nov. 13. Votes on the measures could come as soon as the week of Nov. 16, but several Republican Senate aides said the precise timing remained unclear and could slip until later in November.

“Our target time would be to get it before the talks in Paris,” Inhofe said of the bids to nullify the Environmental Protection Agency rules.

Nearly half the Senate has co-sponsored resolutions from Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) to nullify the EPA's Clean Power Plan (S.J. Res. 24) and a separate effort (S.J. Res. 23) from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to block a separate regulation on carbon dioxide emissions from new and modified power plants (207 ECR 207, 10/27/15).

Companion efforts are led by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) in the House. All of the bids eventually would require the support of two-thirds of each congressional chamber to override a certain veto from Obama, which observers say is unlikely.

Thune Sees Vote ‘Soon.'

Both Capito and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Republican leadership, also said they thought the chamber would take up the resolutions in the near future but perhaps not until later in November.

“It may drift until after Thanksgiving,” Capito said. “We're just not sure.”

In spite of the low odds of success, Senate Republicans see the attempts at undermining the EPA carbon rules as a way to undercut international negotiations on climate change in Paris. They say it's important for other countries to understand all of the U.S. isn't united around the president's climate rules.

Thune agreed Nov. 4 the Senate would definitely take up the Congressional Review Act challenges to the regulations “soon.”

27th State Challenges Regulation

As the Senate prepares to move its efforts to thwart the regulations, a legal battle continues to unfold with Mississippi on Nov. 5 becoming the 27th state to challenge the Clean Power Plan in federal appeals court (Mississippi Dep't of Envtl. Quality v. EPA, D.C. Cir., No. 15-1409, petition filed 11/5/15).

In a petition for review to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality said the regulation to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants “is in excess of the agency's statutory authority” and “goes beyond the bounds set by the United States Constitution.”

The EPA's Clean Power Plan (RIN 2060-AR33) sets carbon dioxide emissions limits for the power sector in each state that will be implemented by state regulators.

Dozens of other entities, including Murray Energy Corp., the Utility Air Regulatory Group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Mining Association, also have challenged the rule. A coalition of 18 states and several large cities are defending the regulation (213 ECR 213, 11/4/15).

The inclusion of Mississippi in the litigation means 45 out of 50 states now are involved in the legal challenge. Only Alaska, which is exempted from the rule, Idaho, Nevada, Tennessee and Pennsylvania are sitting out of the litigation so far.

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

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

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