The EPA’s greenhouse gas emissions rules for new and existing coal and natural gas power plants were finally published in the Federal Register on Friday, 23rd October. EPA had released the text of the final rules on 3rd August. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced that he and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) next week will file a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to block the rule for new power plants. The Majority Leader’s office also announced that Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) will file a CRA resolution to block the rule for existing plants.
On the House side, Representative Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), chairman of the energy subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, announced that he will file CRA resolutions of disapproval for new and existing plants on Monday.
Senate and House votes on these resolutions can be expected in the next few weeks and certainly before COP-21, the twenty-first Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, begins in Paris on 30th November. Both resolutions will pass the House and Senate with votes from an overwhelming majority of Republicans plus a few Democrats.
Although President Barack Obama will veto both CRA resolutions, as Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a press release, the votes will show governments of the other countries involved in negotiating a new climate treaty, which is scheduled to be finished at COP-21, that the Obama Administration’s INDC (or Intended Nationally Determined Contribution) is opposed by Congress. That’s because the two power plant rules are the largest part of the administration’s plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions submitted in the INDC.
The Paris climate treaty negotiators should understand that the rules are unlikely to survive because at some point congressional opposition is likely to turn into congressional action. The first opportunity to act occurs in appropriations legislation for FY 2016. The House and Senate versions of the Interior-EPA appropriations bill contain riders that prohibit implementation of the rules in the current fiscal year. Passage of the CRA resolutions of disapproval will provide strong support for including the riders in any Omnibus appropriations bill that Congress passes to fund the government beyond the current continuing resolution, which expires on 11th December (which is also the day COP-21 is scheduled to conclude in Paris).
Further evidence that the power plant rules may not survive beyond the Obama Administration is provided by the lawsuits that were filed immediately after the rules were published. For more on the lawsuits, see the item in Across the States below.