Obama EPA Rule Faces Bipartisan Opposition

Critics slam administration for burdensome carbon dioxide regulation
EPA administrator Gina McCarthy / AP

EPA administrator Gina McCarthy / AP

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The Obama administration released an aggressive plan Monday to reduce carbon emissions from power plants in the United States by 30 percent by the year 2030, a move panned by critics of executive overreach, vulnerable Senate Democrats, and the energy industry.

As part of President Barack Obama’s second-term push to address climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency published a draft rule Monday that would drastically curtail carbon emissions at fossil-fuel power plants across the country.

“Climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, supercharges risks to our health, our economy, and our way of life,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement. “By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids.”

Republicans, coal-country Democrats, and business groups denounced the draft rule as an expensive job-killer that will cause energy prices to spike.

Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) said he will force a vote to attempt to repeal the rule, calling it “an illegal use of executive power.”

“This latest assault on our economy by President Obama will destroy jobs here in Kentucky and across the country, and will hurt middle class families by hiking their utility bills and straining their budgets,” Paul said.

The EPA estimates the rule will cost utilities as much as $8.8 billion a year in compliance costs. However, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report last week saying the plan could cost the economy up to $50 billion per year.

The Obama administration’s decision to release the draft rule in the midst of a mid-term election year could cause headaches for some Democrats in tough races.

Democratic Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is challenging Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, said in a statement that the rule “is more proof that Washington isn’t working for Kentucky.”

“Coal keeps the lights on in the Commonwealth, providing a way for thousands of Kentuckians to put food on their tables,” Grimes said. “When I’m in the U.S. Senate, I will fiercely oppose the President’s attack on Kentucky’s coal industry because protecting our jobs will be my number one priority.”

Other coal-country Democrats, such as Sen. Joe Manchin (W.V.) who is facing a reelection fight, distanced themselves from Obama administration.

“There is no doubt that seven billion people have had an impact on our world’s climate,” Manchin said in a statement. “However, the proposed EPA rule does little to address the global problem with global solutions. Instead, today’s rule appears to be more about desirability rather than reliability or feasibility, with little regard for rising consumer prices, the effects on jobs and the impact on the reliability of our electric grid.”

The EPA held a conference call with reporters Monday to discuss the new rule, but it was “on background,” or not for attribution.

When pressed by an AP reporter why the call wasn’t on the record, the EPA said because the call was on background, which cleared the issue up.