FRANKFORT — The U.S. Senate's top Republican called again Wednesday for the Environmental Protection Agency to back off from "heavy-handed" regulations that he said are costing jobs in the private sector.
Sen. Mitch McConnell urged his colleagues to force the EPA to revamp regulatory standards that put stricter limits on mercury, lead, arsenic and other toxins from coal-fired power plants.
"Call me naïve, but I think most Americans think the government should be working for them, not against them," McConnell said. "I think most Americans think the federal government should be working to create the conditions for Americans to prosper, not looking for any opportunities to undercut free enterprise. Yet that's what we see — an administration that always seems to assume the worst of the private sector and whose policies are aimed at undermining it. And nowhere is that more clear than at the EPA."
The Senate voted 53-46 Wednesday to defeat a resolution sponsored by Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma that would have prevented the EPA from implementing the so-called "Utility MACT" regulation that McConnell and others insist is part of a "war on coal."
Not all coal state lawmakers agree with McConnell. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-West Virginia, said the EPA regulation shouldn't be blocked because it protects people from harmful emissions. Rockefeller said he took that stand because he cares so much about his state, where mining remains a major industry.
"Unless this industry aggressively leans into the future, coal miners will be the big losers," Rockefeller said. "Beyond the frenzy of this one EPA rule, we need to focus squarely on the real task of finding a long-term future of something called 'clean coal.'"
In Kentucky's coalfields, the EPA has alienated many miners and their families who fear they will lose their jobs to more stringent regulation.
McConnell said the regulation would be especially harmful to Kentucky.
"This regulation would expand the already massive powers given to the EPA by increasing red tape and costing the taxpayer over $10 billion dollars each year," McConnell said. "In my state, in Kentucky alone, it threatens the jobs of over 1,400 people working in aluminum smelter plants as well as approximately 18,000 coal miners.
"This is just one battle in the administration's war on jobs, but it has a devastating consequence for real people and real families in my state."