Area lawmakers vow to fight Biden's Clean Power Plan 2.0

Apr. 26—Elected leaders across Virginia and West Virginia as well as the nation's capitol spoke out Thursday and denounced new EPA regulations aimed at reducing air emissions by pushing for the closure of coal-fired and gas-fired power plants.

The new limits on greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel-fired electric plants are the Biden administration's latest effort to roll back pollution from the power sector, a contributor to climate change, according to the Associated Press. President Joe Biden has pledged to eliminate carbon pollution from the electricity sector by 2035 and economy-wide by 2050.

The rule was among four measures targeting coal and natural gas plants that the EPA said would provide "regulatory certainty" to the power industry and encourage them to make investments to transition "to a clean energy economy." The measures include requirements to reduce toxic wastewater pollutants from coal-fired plants and to safely manage coal ash in unlined storage ponds, the AP report said.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the rules will reduce pollution and improve public health while supporting the reliable, long-term supply of electricity that America needs.

"One of the biggest environmental challenges facing our nation is man-made pollution that damages our air, our water and our land," Regan said in a speech at Howard University. "Not only is this pollution a major threat to public health — it's pushing our planet to the brink."

Regan called the power plant rules "a defining moment" for his agency as it works to "build a cleaner and healthier future for all of us."

Elected leaders representing coal-producing states and states where coal and natural gas are used to generate electricity were quick Thursday to denounce the new EPA regulations.

The EPA's new rules impose a one-two punch of burdensome emissions requirements on existing coal-fired power plants and newly constructed gas-fired power plants, according U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

During the Obama administration, Capito said the EPA attempted to impose a similar slate of rules and regulations aimed at shutting down base load power plants, which the U.S. Supreme Court later overturned in West Virginia v. EPA, Capito said.

Capito, the Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee spoke Thursday about her intention to introduce a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution of disapproval to overturn the emissions rules targeting existing coal plants and new gas plants.

"With the latest iteration of the illegal Clean Power Plan 2.0 announced today, President Biden has inexplicably doubled down on his plans to shut down the backbone of America's electric grid through unachievable regulatory mandates," Capito said. "Electricity demand is set to skyrocket thanks in part to the EPA's own electric vehicles mandate, and unfortunately, Americans are already paying higher utility bills under President Biden. Despite all this, the administration has chosen to press ahead with its unrealistic climate agenda that threatens access to affordable, reliable energy for households and employers across the country.

"To protect millions of Americans, including energy workers, against executive overreach that has already been tried and rejected by the Supreme Court, I will be introducing a Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval to overturn the EPA's job-killing regulations announced today," she said Thursday.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Chairman of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, also spoke out about the EPA new regulations for power plants.

"It is obvious that the ultimate goal of these EPA regulations is to stop the use of fossil fuels to produce reliable energy in the United States by forcing the premature closure of coal plants and blocking new natural gas plants," Manchin said. "The administration is more frightened by political threats from climate activists than by the warnings from our nation's electricity reliability regulators and grid operators that these rules will further strain our already at-risk power grid.

"It is unfortunate, though no longer unexpected, that in an election year they are trying to score short term political points rather than prioritizing long term reliability," Manchin added. "This approach comes at the expense of ratepayers across the country and energy communities, like those in West Virginia that have powered our nation for generations. Let me be clear: American taxpayers will be forced to pay for these rules by purchasing unaffordable and unreliable energy. That makes no sense at all when America is producing record amounts of energy cleaner than ever.

"Their goal is simple: death by a thousand cuts to America's fossil fuel industry, especially coal," Manchin said.

If the Biden Administration wanted to reduce emissions, then it would work to deploy carbon capture and hydrogen and help the fossil industry continue to produce cleaner energy, Manchin said.

"But instead, the radical climate advisors at the White House and EPA have allowed over 120 permits for carbon sequestration wells to sit idle and put up roadblocks to deploying clean hydrogen which can help plants reduce emissions," Manchin said. "In fact, they have even gone so far as to remove hydrogen blending from the final rule."

Manchin said the Biden administration's other initiatives cannot succeed without reliable energy.

"This comes against the backdrop of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the Chips and Science Act bringing manufacturing back to America and causing a significant growth in electricity demand forecasts for the first time in two decades, Manchin said. "We can't be open for business if we can't keep the lights on. When the administration is playing favorites with the law and blocking all of the opportunities to include fossil fuels in a low carbon future, these regulations are neither feasible nor reasonable. All Americans should be concerned about their impact."

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives also spoke out against the EPA's new power plant rules.

The Congressional Coal Caucus Co-Chairs Representatives Carol Miller, R-W.Va., Morgan Griffith, R-Va., Dan Meuser, R-Pa. and Harriet Hageman, R-WY, issued a statement Thursday in response to the power plant rules targeting the coal fleet. This caucus represents American coal communities in Congress and represents both eastern and western mining states and all types of coal produced throughout the country.

"Despite the warnings of grid transmission operators, utilities, grid reliability experts and regulators that the U.S. is facing a grid reliability crisis compounded by surging power demand, the EPA has ignored those warnings and pushed ahead with its destructive agenda to essentially end coal powered electricity in the United States," the caucus co-chairs said. "EPA is using the cumulative impact of a suite of rules — a so-called 'Clean Power Plan 2.0.' EPA's rules will accelerate coal plant retirements when our grid reliability and the affordability of the nation's power supply demand just the opposite. EPA's refusal to heed the warnings of the experts tasked with keeping the lights on and ensuring a reliable supply of power is alarming and will likely have negative consequences for millions of Americans."

Miller issued her own statement about the new regulations.

"The EPA's Clean Power Plan 2.0 rules remind Americans that the Biden Administration is focused on demolishing the United States coal industry in the name of 'green' energy," Miller said. "These new mandates will cripple our electric grid, current coal-fired power plants, new natural gas-fired power plants, and overall U.S. energy production. This disastrous move will increase energy prices and cost of living across the United States."

Millers said that in June 2023, she and Capito introduced the Protect Our Power Plants (POPP) Act to stop the EPA from finalizing, implementing, or enforcing these rules.

"I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to hold the EPA accountable for this misguided rule-making and will be introducing a Congressional Review Act (CRA) in an effort to overturn the EPA's rules," Miller said.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey spoke about the new regulations as well.

"This new rule would strip the states of important discretion while using technologies that don't work in the real world — so it sets up the plants to fail. These plants, which are an essential part of our power grid, will be unable to meet the standards dictated by the EPA, leaving them with no other option but to cease operations," Morrisey said. "We will be challenging this rule. The U.S. Supreme Court has placed significant limits on what the EPA can do — we plan on ensuring that those limits are upheld, and we expect that we will once again prevail in court against this out-of-control agency."

"This tactic by the EPA is unacceptable, and this rule flies in the face of the rule of law," Morrisey added. "We are confident this new rule is not going to be upheld, and it just seems designed to scare more coal-fired power plants into retirement — the goal of the Biden administration."

"Making matters worse, the administration packaged this rule with several other rules aimed at destroying traditional energy providers," Morrisey said. "We're reviewing those rules as well, and we'll be working with state and industry partners to implement the best strategy for fighting back against Biden's anti-energy agenda."

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