WASHINGTON — On Monday House Republicans targeted a key element of President Barack Obama’s strategy for fighting climate change, releasing a bill to delay the Obama administration’s plan to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants.
Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky unveiled a draft bill that would allow governors to veto compliance with the federal rule if the governor determines it would cause significant rate increases for electricity or harm reliability in the state.
The bill also would delay the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate rule until all court challenges are completed.
Whitfield, chairman of the energy and power subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce panel, said the EPA’s proposed rule to limit carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants is riddled with problems and faces an uphill battle in the courts.
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Whitfield and other Republicans cited testimony from an unlikely ally, Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe, an Obama mentor who has said the proposed EPA rule is unconstitutional.
“Burning the Constitution should not become part of our national energy policy,” Tribe told Whitfield’s subcommittee last week.
Tribe said the EPA was attempting what he called “an unconstitutional trifecta: usurping the prerogatives of the states, Congress and the federal courts — all at once.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also cited Tribe’s comments in a letter urging the nation’s 50 governors to defy Obama’s rules for power plants by refusing to submit compliance plans to Washington.
“Some have suggested recently that failing to comply with the EPA’s requirements would be to disregard the law,” McConnell wrote in a letter to all 50 governors. “But the fact is, it is the EPA that is failing to comply with the law.”
Democrats and environmentalists have criticized Tribe, once a hero of the environmental movement, noting that his testimony follows comments he submitted in December on behalf of Peabody Energy Corp., the world’s largest private coal company.
The measure unveiled Monday does not block the EPA rule outright, as previous GOP bills have intended, but Whitfield said he was confident the measure would protect states and consumers.
A spokesman for Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who has worked with Whitfield on previous EPA legislation, said the senator was reviewing Whitfield’s proposal.
“Like Congressman Whitfield, Sen. Manchin is very concerned about the EPA’s existing-source rule (for carbon pollution) and will continue to work with his colleagues to make sure regulations strike a balance between environmental concerns and economic growth,” Manchin spokesman Jonathan Kott said.
Whitfield said he had scheduled a hearing for his bill April 14.