Two coal state lawmakers, Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), have introduced legislation (H.R. 3826/S. 1905) that would block forthcoming EPA limits on carbon emissions from the nation’s coal-fired power plants. Specifically, the bill would need congressional approval before such rules could take effect.
The House version of the bill is scheduled to be taken up next week.
With natural gas already displacing coal in power generation due to market forces, this legislation is not about keeping electricity affordable, it is about trying to slow the transition to natural gas. Whitfield and Manchin have also tried to block tighter limits on mercury emissions from power plants—which puts coal at a disadvantage over cleaner burning natural gas.
It is worth noting that since the U.S. Supreme Court—which is a conservative court—ruled that the Clean Air Act (CAA) covers carbon emissions, EPA is required to regulate them. The authors of this legislation are trying to get around that ruling and avoid any limits on coal plant carbon emissions.
Regulating carbon emissions via the CAA is not the ideal solution to climate change, and opposing it would make sense if alternatives such as a carbon tax or cap-and-dividend legislation were on the table and politically viable, but they are not. Congress has shown no willingness or ability to advance climate legislation.
Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, who remains skeptical of climate science, wrote in a recent column “I’ve long believed that it cannot be good for humanity to be spewing tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”
For those of us concerned about climate change, or anyone who agrees with the sentiments of Mr. Krauthammer, the Whitfield/Manchin legislation should be a non-starter.
To urge your Congressman to oppose H.R. 3826, call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask for your Congressman’s office.