McConnell, GOP looking to scotch EPA carbon rules
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is in serious political trouble in Kentucky. He's unpopular with just about everybody, and he is facing a serious challenge on his right from businessman and Tea Party stalwart Matt Bevin.
McConnell see the EPA carbon rules as a serious threat to the Kentucky economy and he's ready to do just about anything to stop them. He and 39 other GOP Senators are looking to employ a little used parliamentary manuever to block the EPA rules before they even get started.
The Kentucky senator filed a formal resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act, a rarely used provision that allows Congress to block executive branch regulations that Congress considers onerous. The EPA rules were published in the Federal Register last week.
"Kentucky is facing a real crisis here," McConnell said Thursday in introducing the disapproval motion. Regulations imposed by the Obama administration have already cost hundreds of coal jobs in Kentucky, McConnell said, adding that the EPA rule "would effectively ban coal-fired power plants from being built in the future."
"The Obama administration appears to be sending signals that its latest regulation is just the beginning in a new, expanded front in its war on coal," said McConnell.
The agency's rules would impose tough new limits on the amount of carbon dioxide new plants are allowed to emit, essentially requiring any new coal plants to install expensive carbon-capture technology. Critics argue the technology is too expensive, not commercially available and poses safety risks.
The Sierra Club denounced the Republican effort as a "political maneuver."
"McConnell is attacking [the rules] before the Environmental Protection Agency has even determined what they will be. McConnell's political maneuver is like asking for instant replay before the football is even snapped," Melinda Pierce, Sierra Club Deputy Legislative Director, said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal.
It was not clear Thursday when or if McConnell's motion would get an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. The law has been used successfully only once since it was approved in 1996, according to congressional staffers.
Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee accused the EPA of delaying the formal publication of the carbon pollution rules for political reasons, since they likely will not be finalized until after the 2014 elections. Publication in the Federal Register starts a one-year clock for the rule to be completed.
Sen James Inhofe, R-Okla., said the EPA's actions show a double standard by the Obama administration on climate change.
"On the one hand, the president says we don't have time to delay action on global warming," Inhofe said. "But on the other hand, his actions show it is OK to wait to finalize rules that will harm the economy until after the elections so they won't have an impact on vulnerable Senate Democrats who face voters this fall" in coal-producing states.
It's hard to overstate just how bad these new regs are. Even proponents of the regulations say it will virtually destroy the coal industry. Electric bills will shoot up. Dozens of power plants will be forced to close.
This, at a time when US carbon dioxide emissions are as low as they were in 1994 (there was a 2% increase in 2013). In fact, even though we didn't approve the Kyoto Accords, we are the only industrialized nation in the world that hit it's target for reducing CO2 emissions.
The use of natural gas has skyrocketed, which emits far less CO2 and is a big part of the reason for the reduced emissions. So just as the problem is being dealt with - without any government interference - along comes the EPA to throw its weight around.
If global warming is such a crisis that we have to take these draconian steps to address it, I've got news for Obama and the EPA: It's already too late to do anything about it. These new regs are about control, not reducing emissions. And they will only add to the immense paperwork burden for American businesses.