WHEELING - A group of House Republicans led by Rep. David McKinley of West Virginia is seeking to block new federal Environmental Protection Agency greenhouse gas regulations that are expected to deal a devastating blow to the nation's coal-fired power plants.
House Resolution 4813, introduced Monday, would not only nullify new EPA limits on carbon emissions from both new and existing power plants, but also would place a five-year moratorium on similar rules unless Congress enacts legislation specifically authorizing the EPA to do so.
Last week, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy announced proposed regulations that seek to slash the nation's carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The rule sets state-specific standards and requires each state by 2018 at the latest to submit a plan to achieve its standard.
Environmental groups hailed the rule as a necessary step in battling climate change, and EPA officials said it gives states plenty of leeway to adopt policies that work for them. But opponents say the rules will devastate the economy by costing many coal miners and power plant workers their jobs, while barely putting a dent in global greenhouse gas emissions.
"Let's put this in perspective," McKinley said. "China is burning more coal than the rest of the world combined and investing billions to develop clean coal technologies. They understand the central role coal plays in powering their economy.
"On the other hand, the Obama administration is pushing us away from coal, cutting funding for clean coal research and forcing America toward higher-cost sources of energy," he continued.
As of Tuesday, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-Beckley, was the lone Democrat among the bill's 69 co-sponsors, which include Reps. Shelley Moore Capito, R-Charleston, and Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, Ohio, and Robert Gibbs, R-Lakeview, Ohio.
"There is a right way and a wrong way of doing things, and the Obama administration has got it wrong once again," Rahall said in response to the EPA's announcement. "This new regulation threatens our economy and does so with an apparent disregard for the livelihoods of our coal miners and thousands of families throughout West Virginia."
Recent polls indicate Rahall, a 37-year veteran of Congress, is facing a stiff challenge in this year's election. His Republican opponent, Evan Jenkins, has taken aim at Rahall's record on coal.
"Nick Rahall talks tough now, but for years he's backed (President Barack Obama's) war on coal and voted to give the EPA the power and money to develop reckless regulations ... that destroy West Virginia jobs and send electricity rates skyrocketing. The chickens are now coming home to roost," Jenkins said.
The bill, also known as the Protection and Accountability Regulatory Act of 2014, has been referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce.
McKinley acknowledged his bill faces a difficult road ahead. Democrats still hold a narrow majority in the Senate, where previous attempts by the GOP-led House to curb the EPA's regulatory authority consistently have met roadblocks.
"While we can't predict what the Harry Reid-controlled Senate will do with this bill, it's important we make a stand and show the American people just how devastating the EPA's plan will be," McKinley said.