Manchin breaks ranks, votes to stop EPA coal regulations

By Jessica Karmasek | Nov 18, 2015

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin broke rank with fellow Democrats and voted Tuesday to pass a resolution to stop the Obama administration from imposing anti-coal regulations on new coal-fired power plants.

West Virginia’s senior senator also voted to pass a separate resolution, introduced by U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., to prevent the administration from moving forward with its proposed anti-coal regulations for existing coal-fired plants.

Manchin, along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., introduced the resolution on new power plants. He co-sponsored Capito and Heitkamp’s resolution on existing plants.

“The president’s energy agenda has had a crushing impact on West Virginia and other energy states,” Manchin said in a statement. “With the passage of these resolutions, Congress is saying ‘enough is enough.’ We are showing the rest of the country and the rest of the world that we will continue to fight against these unobtainable and unreasonable regulations with everything that we have.

“I have vowed to do everything I can to fight to protect the people and the communities of West Virginia, which have been absolutely devastated by this administration’s overreaching rules on the coal industry, and I am pleased that these measures have been passed to disapprove and stop these rules.”

Both resolutions passed by a vote of 52 to 46.

Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can eliminate onerous regulations imposed by the executive branch through an expedited procedure for consideration in the Senate.

In this case, if both resolutions are enacted into law, they would eliminate both pillars of the administration’s power plan, even if portions of the plan have already gone into effect.

Manchin, who spoke on the Senate floor ahead of the votes Tuesday, wrote a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy last week, criticizing the agency for drafting its Clean Power PLan standards for new coal-fired power plants based on a presently failing Canadian carbon, capture and sequestration, or CCS, project.

Manchin argues that recent reports prove CCS is still technologically unproven and should not be required for coal-fired plants.

Under the EPA’s rule, new large natural gas-fired turbines need to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour, while new small natural gas-fired turbines need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour.

New coal-fired units need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour, and have the option to meet a somewhat tighter limit if they choose to average emissions over multiple years, giving those units additional operational flexibility.

Capito, who also spoke on the Senate floor ahead of the two votes, said the Senate’s vote in favor of her resolution on existing plants signals that a majority of senators disapproves of Obama’s “economically catastrophic” energy regulations.

“American jobs and economic growth are being held hostage as the administration proposes regulations that harm energy-producing states,” Capito said in a statement. “Today’s passage of a bipartisan resolution of disapproval makes clear that enough is enough -- the president cannot move forward with policies at expense of our families, communities and economy.

“The administration needs to understand coal’s role in our energy landscape, and I will continue my efforts to ensure that our state has access to affordable, reliable energy.”

Capito voted with the bipartisan majority of the Senate to pass Manchin’s resolution.

Both resolutions now will move to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey praised Manchin and Capito’s actions.

“I applaud the U.S. Senate, including Sens. Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin, for trying to block this unprecedented and illegal overreach by EPA -- a regulation, if left intact, would help destroy West Virginia coal mining communities and lead to skyrocketing electricity bills affecting every walk of life,” Morrisey said in a statement late Tuesday.

“The Senate vote joins a chorus of 27 states, miners, boilermakers, operators, businesses and consumers already fighting this illegal rule in federal court. I urge the U.S. House to follow the Senate’s path and put an end to this destructive regulation.”

The attorney general, who is leading a coalition of 23 other states in a lawsuit to strike down the federal agency’s new rule, said he believes the Clean Power Plan unlawfully expands the federal government’s regulatory power over electricity production and consumption in nearly every state.

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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito Virginia Attorney General's Office

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