House committee passes resolutions to kill EPA’s CO2-reduction plans

Capitol Hill

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The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Nov. 18 passed two resolutions, H.J. Res 71 and H.J. Res 72, that had been introduced by Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., expressing Congressional disapproval of two final rules issued by the EPA for new and existing fossil fuel-fired power plants, and that the rules will n have no force or effect.

The resolutions still need a vote on the House floor. Passed by the full Senate on Nov. 17 were two similar resolutions on the EPA’s CO2-reducing Clean Power Plan for existing power plants and a companion rule for new power plants. The Obama Administration has said it plans to veto the measures if they get that far.

“The resolutions that passed today will protect states and their citizens from higher electricity prices and from having to implement a highly complex, intrusive, and unworkable regulatory cap-and-trade scheme for the electricity sector.,” said a Nov. 18 statement from the House committee’s Republican majority. “Yesterday, the Senate passed identical resolutions, introduced by Senate Majority Leader [Mitch] McConnell (R-KY) and Senator [Shelley Moore] Capito (R-WV).”

Whitfield stated: “Over the past 24 months in hearings and letters, this committee has developed an extensive record documenting the unprecedented reach and strong potential for harmful, costly impacts of EPA’s regulations. In my view, the discrepancy between what EPA is trying to do and what the Clean Air Act actually allows is so wide that these resolutions are necessary. These resolutions are necessary to protect ratepayers, the reliability of our electricity supplies, and our nation’s global competitiveness.”

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., added, “The committee has long worked to protect jobs and keep energy prices affordable from the administration’s expansive regulatory agenda. These resolutions are ultimately about protecting hard-working people from higher electricity prices, threats to grid reliability, and EPA’s economy wide energy tax. A Democratically controlled Congress wisely rejected cap-and-trade in 2010 and those rules are just as ill advised today as they were then.”

On Aug. 3, EPA announced the two final rules to regulate CO2 emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants. The rules were published in the Federal Register on Oct. 23, triggering a wave of lawsuits filed against them in federal court.

The rules are:

  • New Plants Rule (also called the “111(b) Rule”): In this rule, EPA interprets section 111(b) of the Clean Air Act (CAA) to allow the agency to set CO2 standards for new coal-fired power plants premised on the installation of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies that critics say are not commercially viable. While EPA maintains CCS is adequately demonstrated, there are no commercial-scale coal-fired power plants currently operating in the United States that could meet the standards.
  • Existing Plants Rule (“111(d) Rule”): In this rule, EPA interprets section 111(d), a rarely invoked provision of the CAA, to require states to submit plans to the agency to meet mandatory CO2 “goals” set by EPA for each state’s electricity sector. Under the rule, EPA will judge the sufficiency of state plans that set forth how the state would meet the new mandates.

The resolutions provide for Congressional disapproval of each rule, and that each rule will have no force and effect. Under the Congressional Review Act, the agency may not issue the same or a substantially similar rule unless authorized by subsequent legislation.

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Barry Cassell formerly was Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He  has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report . He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report . He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University. Barry can be reached at

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