Senate Rebuffs Bid To Overturn EPA Rule | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: November 11, 2011

Senate Rebuffs Bid To Overturn EPA Rule

Air Pollution: Cross-state regulation targets emissions that drift downwind
Department: Government & Policy
Keywords: cross-state air pollution

Senate Democrats on Thursday rejected a measure that sought to block an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule aimed at reducing air pollution from coal-fired power plants that drifts across state borders.

A motion to void the EPA rule (S.J. Res. 27) offered by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), was defeated by a vote of 41-56 that fell largely along party lines.

The resolution would have nullified EPA’s recently finalized Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which requires 27 states in the eastern part of the U.S. to curb emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide that contribute to smog and other air quality problems in neighboring states (C&EN, Oct. 17, page 42).

Paul said he did not want to roll back all EPA rules, and was only targeting new ones that he argued are too costly and burdensome for industry. “I think we can have a clean environment and jobs,” he said during the Senate floor debate on Thursday. “But not if we let this Administration continue to pass job-killing regulations.”

Paul, who represents a major coal-producing state, said the new anti-pollution rule could cost $100 billion over a decade. “If this President is serious about job creation, he needs to cease and desist from adding new job-killing regulations,” he stated.

But Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, said the resolution is “just the tip of the iceberg of the Republican Party’s desire to repeal important health and safety regulations.”

Two Democrats, Sens. Joseph Manchin III of West Virginia and Ben Nelson of Nebraska, crossed party lines to vote for Paul’s resolution. But six Republicans voted with Democrats to keep EPA’s rule in place.

Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) noted that her state has no coal-fired power plants, but is downwind from other states that do. “While many parts of the country rely on relatively inexpensive coal power, the health effects from this cheap energy source are borne by the people of Maine,” she said. “It is unacceptable that these costs are simply transferred from one region to another, and that is why I have strongly supported reducing this pollution with cost-effective technologies.”

President Barack Obama had threatened to veto Paul’s measure and the White House Office of Management & Budget issued a statement that said resolution “would cause substantial harm to public health and undermine our nation’s longstanding commitment to clean up pollution from power plants.”

EPA claims the cross-state rule will produce $120 billion to $280 billion in annual health benefits from lives saved and medical costs avoided. That compares to costs to utilities of approximately $2.4 billion a year.

After the vote, the American Lung Association said it was “encouraged to see a growing number of legislators on both sides of the aisle recognizing the importance of putting clean air ahead of corporate interests.” It claimed the anti-pollution rule will prevent up to 34,000 premature deaths, 400,000 asthma attacks, 15,000 heart attacks, and 19,000 hospital visits annually.

Paul’s measure was supported by the National Manufacturers Association and other industry trade groups. “Our economy continues to struggle to recover, and manufacturers cannot bear yet another costly regulation that increases the cost of doing business in the U.S.,” said Aric Newhouse, NAM’s senior vice president for policy and government relations.

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