Flake bill aims to ‘give EPA a taste of its own medicine’

By Jean Chemnick | 03/05/2015 07:21 AM EST

Sen. Jeff Flake introduced legislation this week that would require U.S. EPA to compensate other federal agencies for increased electricity rates and other costs associated with the Clean Power Plan.

The Arizona Republican’s measure aims to make a case that EPA’s rules for curbing carbon dioxide from power plants would hurt ratepayers. EPA contends any increase in per-megawatt costs would be offset by efficiency upgrades that would shrink bills overall.

The Flake legislation, S. 640 — backed by six Republican co-sponsors, including Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman James Inhofe of Oklahoma — would direct EPA to deduct funds from its own operating budget to make other agencies whole.


The requirement would be waived if Congress approves the EPA rule — a tough sell given GOP majorities in both chambers.

In a floor statement Tuesday, Flake called EPA’s proposals "draconian" and said his bill would "give EPA a taste of its own medicine."

"EPA has a history of implementing costly and stringent standards for negligible and even questionable benefit," he said.

But EPA contends past predictions that new regulations would result in runaway price hikes and job losses failed to come true.

"It is the same rhetoric we’ve heard for decades," spokeswoman Liz Purchia said. "We heard it about phasing out leaded gasoline, we heard it about acid rain, and we heard it about the ozone layer. Critics cry wolf, and their doomsday predictions don’t come true."

EPA, its supporters and its detractors are in a tug-of-war about how the Clean Power Plan’s costs should be measured.

The agency and environmentalists say any legitimate cost-benefit analysis should include health-related savings including from reductions in non-CO2 emissions, while Republicans and industry take an expansive view of the rule’s economic impact. The result: Predictions about the rule’s economic consequences vary widely.