Inhofe optimistic about bid to roll back toxics rule

Source: Jean Chemnick • E&E • Posted: Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) predicted today that his motion to strike a new U.S. EPA rule for power plant air toxics would fare better than efforts to roll back air rules using the Congressional Review Act.

At issue is EPA’s Utility MACT rule for mercury, acid gases and other toxics.

“On this one, when people understand what the Utility MACT is going to be doing in terms of their requirements, I think this is one that can get the votes,” he told reporters.

The Environment and Public Works Committee’s ranking Republican said he plans to file his resolution of disapproval as soon as the power plant rule is printed in the Federal Register, which is expected next week. The rule was finalized in December and limits mercury, acid gases and heavy metals from power plants.

Republicans have tried without success to use the Congressional Review Act to knock down EPA rules. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) used it in November to target rules for ozone- and soot-forming emissions that cross state lines, but he attracted only 41 votes, 10 shy of what was needed.

“I’ve been critical of others using the Congressional Review Act, when it’s kind of a showmanship type of thing,” Inhofe said today. “But when you get to an issue that’s strong enough that there will be pressure on it to pass this kind of thing, then I think we have a shot at doing it.”

Inhofe said the pressure would come from citizens concerned that the rule would drive up their energy costs. Unlike the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, the mercury rule would affect power plants nationwide. A number of utilities, including FirstEnergy, have said they will retire coal-fired power plants as a result.

EPA estimates the standard will cost industry about $11 billion a year in compliance costs, though it says the rule will yield 13 times that in health-related savings and other benefits.

Six Republican senators voted against Paul’s resolution, most of them from downwind states that stood to gain from a rule limiting their neighbors’ emissions. Inhofe said he expected all Senate Republicans would support his resolution.

“I would be in shock if any Republicans did not,” he said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) indicated he likely would support Inhofe’s motion.

“I think it’s good to take the burden off business,” he said. Still, knocking down emissions rules is not enough to establish a Republican environmental policy, he said

“How do we want to clean up the air?” he said. “If you don’t like these rules, what would we do?

“It makes sense to create jobs and make it a better place to do business in America, but again, our party needs to have a vision. How do we want to clean up air in a job-friendly manner?”