E&E Daily's Chemnick discusses House, Senate plans for action on power plan

The Clean Power Plan hit a roadblock in the House this week, with passage of a bill that would allow states to delay or opt out of compliance. How does this play into the dynamic of the discussion in Congress on the power plan? On today's The Cutting Edge, E&E Daily reporter Jean Chemnick discusses the House's and Senate's plans this summer to use various policy tools to push back against U.S. EPA's emissions regulations.


Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to The Cutting Edge. The Clean Power Plan hit a roadblock in the House this week, with passage of a bill that would allow states to opt out of compliance. E&E Daily's Jean Chemnick is here with details on what Congress has planned for the Clean Power Plan this summer. Jean, the House bill, sponsored by Ed Whitfield of Kentucky, has the support of eight Democrats. How does this plan into the dynamic of the discussion on the Clean Power Plan in Congress? How much fuel does this add to the fire?

Jean Chemnick: Well, this was the House's first big bid to get rid of the Clean Power Plan. It did pass with a little bit of bipartisan support, but it was always expected to clear the House without any problem. And what it would do would be to allow states to put off submitting implementation plans for the rule until the courts had ruled. And then even then, if a governor decides that there are seriously reliability or ratepayer problems with it for his state, they can opt out of the rule without having the federal government step in with a plan.

Monica Trauzzi: It won't be quite as easy to move legislation like this in the Senate, how are things shaping up there?

Jean Chemnick: Well, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito is taking the lead on that, and she's a new senator, obviously a new chairwoman of an important subcommittee. And she's introduced a bill that's even more sweeping than the Whitfield bill. It would actually also go after the new and modified power plant rules. And she's hoping to move them through subcommittee and full committee in the July work period, and probably will be able to do that.

The problem is that when Congress comes back after August recess, there will be a lot of competition for floor time because that will be the time when the federal government needs to be funded for the next fiscal year. So it's not clear that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can afford her time on the floor to have a vote.

Monica Trauzzi: Republicans have said that they will attempt to halt or delay the Clean Power Plan through multiple legislative vehicles, so what other policy tools is the leadership looking at to derail or delay the Clean Power Plan?

Jean Chemnick: Well, Sen. Mitch McConnell is taking the lead, in a way, on this whole strategy, and he's already signaled that he's interested in the Congressional Review Act. He tried to move CRA resolution to the new power plant rule last year, but it was still in draft form. And what the law does is allow Congress to veto administration regulations, and it allows them to move through the Senate in an expedited manner that doesn't require a 60-vote majority.

And he'll almost certainly -- somebody almost certainly will try to do that again once the rules are final in the fall. And then also McConnell has used his position on a key Appropriations subcommittee to insert language into the bill that would bar EPA from moving forward on the Clean Power Plan and the other power plant rules.

Monica Trauzzi: Do you see any path to enactment for any of these policy options?

Jean Chemnick: No. None of them will get a presidential signature. The White House issued a very strong veto threat this week to the Whitfield bill, and then White House climate adviser Brian Deese reiterated, but it wasn't the first time. The administration won't really go to the mattresses on the Clean Power Plan and other clean air climate action plan policies.

The hope, I think, of opponents of this rule is that they can kind of wait out the clock, that administration is almost over. It would be very difficult to move forward with a federal implementation plan for multiple states if a lot of states choose not to comply, and the next administration will really have a lot to say about how this rule gets implemented.

Monica Trauzzi: And this is a game that will likely get played in the courts.

Jean Chemnick: Yes.

Monica Trauzzi: All right. Thank you, Jean, for your time.

Jean Chemnick: Thank you.

Monica Trauzzi: The Cutting Edge will be off next week during the Independence Day recess. More Cutting Edge coming July 10th.

[End of audio]



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