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E&E News: GOP senators urge action on power plant emissions as climate bill falters
April 27, 2010

Posted by David Lungren

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E&E News 

GOP senators urge action on power plant emissions as climate bill falters


Robin Bravender, E&E reporter

Link to Article

With Senate climate legislation in limbo, a pair of influential Republican senators hopes the chamber will focus on clean air legislation aimed at slashing power plant pollution.

Sens. James Inhofe of Oklahoma and George Voinovich of Ohio, the top two Republicans on the Environment and Public Works Committee, want the Senate to zero in on a bill to slash soot, smog and mercury from power plants now that the future of the climate bill is in flux, according to Republican aides.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has been crafting a climate bill with Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), on Saturday threatened to abandon the climate negotiations because of a White House push to simultaneously overhaul federal immigration policies (E&E Daily, April 26).

In an op-ed published yesterday in Politico, Inhofe said the global warming debate has been a "distraction."

"The Senate is wasting time on legislation that, even if passed, would fail to achieve its stated goal of reducing global temperatures," Inhofe wrote of the climate bill. "There's an opportunity right now to make significant environmental progress -- while ensuring cleaner, more affordable and more reliable electricity for consumers."

Voinovich, however, yesterday said that he was not choosing a climate bill or multipollutant legislation over the other, but urged action on both fronts. Of the climate bill, he said, "My feeling is if they can get their act together -- I don't think they have yet -- and something can be worked out, I think that we should do it."

The Ohio Republican is listed as a "fence sitter" on a comprehensive climate change bill, according to E&E's latest assessment of the Senate debate. Inhofe, on the other hand, is listed as a "no" vote.

"Our hope is that the focus shifts away from the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman effort, which is very much in doubt" and moves toward efforts to pass multipollutant legislation, said an Inhofe aide.

"The climate change effort seems to be imploding, seems to be falling apart," the aide said. "We think that focus should shift to an issue that you can get real bipartisan support for."

Aides for Inhofe and Voinovich yesterday said that the two senators are hoping to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle on pending three-pollutant, or 3-p, legislation to cut power plants' soot, smog and mercury emissions.

Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) unveiled a 3-p measure last year that seeks steep cuts in electric utilities' emissions. Their bill aims to cut power plants' soot-forming sulfur dioxide (SO2) by 80 percent by 2018, smog-forming nitrogen dioxide (NOx) by 50 percent by 2015 and mercury by 90 percent by 2015. Carper said last week that he expects to mark up the bill as early as next month.

The Carper-Alexander bill comes as U.S. EPA works to draft replacement rules for the George W. Bush administration's Clean Air Interstate Rule and Clean Air Mercury Rule, air pollution rules that were rejected by a federal appeals court.

Inhofe and Voinovich support the broad goals of the Carper-Alexander bill, aides said, although they have some outstanding concerns with the bill as it stands.

A Voinovich aide said the Ohio senator wants to see several changes to the bill, including more flexibility for controlling mercury emissions.

But overall, the aide said, "3-p is something we need to address whether or not climate moves," in part because "businesses need a clear path forward over the next 20 years." The Republican aides said Inhofe and Voinovich share concerns about what they see as overlapping and confusing EPA rules that will likely be subject to lawsuits and would reduce certainty for businesses.

Voinovich, former chairman of the Clean Air Subcommittee, has worked on several previous efforts to push power plant legislation through the Senate. He sponsored the George W. Bush administration's failed "Clear Skies" legislation and other bills aimed at curbing utilities' emissions.

Carper and Alexander yesterday welcomed their colleagues' support.

"Senator Inhofe's comments make it even more likely that after six years of hard work by a bipartisan group of senators that a good clean air bill will happen this year," Alexander said.

Still, said Carper spokeswoman Emily Spain, "my boss is very supportive of doing a comprehensive climate change bill this year" and hopes that the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman effort gets back on track.


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