U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced June 18 that he secured language in the Senate Interior Appropriations bill that would protect states from any consequences from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should they forego submitting a state plan for complying with the agency’s Clean Power Plan.
This prohibition of the use of funds was included in the Senate version of the bill that was approved by the Appropriations Committee earlier on June 18. In March, McConnell sent a letter to all 50 governors calling on them to “carefully review the consequences before signing up for this deeply misguided plan.” In the letter, McConnell wrote: “I believe you will find, as I have, that the EPA’s proposal goes far beyond its legal authority and that the courts are likely to strike it down. All of which raises the very important question of why the EPA is asking states at this time to propose their own compliance plans in the first place.”
The measure that McConnell inserted in the Interior funding bill solidifies in legislative text that states have the option to refuse to comply with the EPA’s power plant rule. The Interior Appropriations bill must now be approved by the full Senate.
“If enacted, the measure I secured today will guarantee that governors who heeded my warning will be protected, while also prohibiting funding for the EPA to force states to submit an implementation plan,” McConnell said. “This administration’s EPA continues its war against Kentucky coal jobs, miners and their families, and I have vowed to do all I can to stop them. I joined the Interior Subcommittee this year specifically to be in a position to oversee the EPA’s budget and to protect Kentucky jobs. The provision I secured today is very important to my constituents back home. If enacted, it will protect jobs, keep electricity prices low, and fight back against the bureaucratic overreach committed by this administration’s EPA.”
McConnell also secured a number of other provisions in the bill that seek to prevent the EPA from implementing "onerous" regulations that will have a negative impact on Kentucky’s economy. He secured language that would prohibit implementation and funding of the so-called "Waters of the U.S." (WOTUS) rule that would classify nearly all wetlands, including small ponds and ditches, as “navigable” waters and thus subject to EPA control. McConnell also inserted language to prohibit the EPA from regulating a standard for ozone or “smog” levels until at least 85% of counties nationwide that are not in compliance are able to do so.
“Once again, Senator McConnell is standing up for coal miners as well as the increasing number of states that have serious concerns about the Obama Administration’s policies regarding electricity production,” said Bill Bissett, President of the Kentucky Coal Association (KCA). “Protecting states that choose not to comply with the EPA’s proposed Greenhouse Gas regulations makes sense and should be seen by the White House as a growing voice of concern against their policies that will create more economic destruction in coal mining and coal using states like Kentucky. KCA thanks Senator McConnell for his efforts, and we hope Senator McConnell’s colleagues in the United States Senate support this effort.”
In his March 19 letter to the governors, McConnell called on them to reject EPA’s proposed regulation that requires states to dramatically restructure their electricity systems based on how the agency thinks electricity should be produced and used in each state. The EPA’s demands under the proposed Clean Power Plan, McConnell noted, are “far beyond its legal authority.”
McConnell asked the governors to “carefully review the consequences before signing up for this deeply misguided plan. I believe you will find, as I have, that the EPA’s proposal goes far beyond its legal authority and that the courts are likely to strike it down. All of which raises the very important question of why the EPA is asking states at this time to propose their own compliance plans in the first place.”
The Clean Power Plan, due to be issued in final form this summer, calls for a 30% reduction in carbon emissions from existing power plants by 2030 (from 2005 levels) through federally-enforceable state plans submitted to the EPA.
“Some have recently suggested that failing to comply with the EPA’s requirements would be to disregard the law,” the senator told the governors. “But the fact is, it is the EPA that is failing to comply with the law here. By requiring states to submit a plan aimed at achieving a lower emissions target based upon four so-called ‘building blocks’ — (1) improved power plant efficiencies, (2) switching electricity generation sources, (3) building new generation and transmission, and (4) reducing demand — the EPA is overreaching, as its authority under the Clean Air Act extends only to the first building block related to source specific energy efficiency upgrades."
The Sierra Club on June 18 slammed the bill provisions added by McConnell and other Republicans. The club called the additions "toxic riders."
Melinda Pierce, Legislative Director for the Sierra Club, said: “Whether it is taking direct aim at critical public health protections or gutting the funding for the watchdog agencies that enforce them, Senate Republican leadership will do anything they can to push the agenda of big polluters. In fact, in a surprise to no one, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appointed himself to the very subcommittee that holds the reins for funding the EPA in a cynical attempt to guide his fellow Republicans in slashing funding for clean air and clean water safeguards. From cutting funding for the EPA and Interior’s budget to $2 billion less than it was five years ago to destructive riders that have no place in this bill, Senate Republicans are serving up a buffet to their fossil fuel industry friends. We urge Senate Republicans to go back to the drawing board, work with Democrats, and craft a clean bill that properly funds the EPA and Interior, and protects our country’s air, water, and natural resources.”