Congress, Energy, Environment, U.S. President

Capito, Miller team up on bill to strike down new EPA power plant rule; Manchin seeks extended comment period, WV public hearing

MORGANTOWN – West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and Rep. Carol Miller have teamed to introduce a bill in their respective chambers to stop the U.S. EPA from implementing its proposed new greenhouse gas emissions rule for power plants – a rule they say would force the closure of coal- and gas-fired power plants.

The short, three-page bill – the Protect Our Power Plants (POPP) Act – says the EPA’s rule is illegal and states, “The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency may not finalize, implement, or enforce” the proposed rule.

The rule is called the “New Source Performance Standards for Greenhouse Gas Emissions From New, Modified, and Reconstructed Fossil Fuel-Fired Electric Generating Units; Emission Guidelines for Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Existing Fossil Fuel-Fired Electric Generating Units; and Repeal of the Affordable Clean Energy Rule.”

The EPA says the proposed rule would set limits for new gas-fired combustion turbines; existing coal, oil and gas-fired steam generating units, and certain existing gas-fired combustion turbines. “The proposed standards are based on technologies such as carbon capture and sequestration/storage, low-GHG hydrogen co-firing, and natural gas co-firing, which can be applied directly to power plants that use fossil fuels to generate electricity.”

EPA says, “The proposed new source performance standards and emission guidelines reflect the application of the best system of emission reduction that, taking into account costs, energy requirements, and other statutory factors, is adequately demonstrated for the purpose of improving the emissions performance of the covered electric generating units.”

Capito and Miller disagree with the EPA’s view. Their bill says the rule is “intended to completely reshape the electricity grid and therefore has vast economic and political significance. … The carbon capture and clean hydrogen technologies proposed as the best system of emission reduction have not been commercially utilized, are not cost-effective, and are not feasible, and are therefore not adequately demonstrated.”

Capito and Miller cite the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, which says Congress must speak clearly if Congress wishes to assign to an agency decisions of vast economic and political significance. The rule is an illegal interpretation of the Clean Air Act and has not been authorized within the CAA or any other provision of 8 Federal law, they said.

In their Monday announcement of the bill, Capito, ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said, “With its Clean Power Plan 2.0, the Biden administration has made it quite clear they intend to ignore the Supreme Court’s ruling in West Virginia v. EPA, put the people who help power our nation out of work, and increase energy costs for millions of Americans.”

She continued, “In the face of this illegal overreach, Congresswoman Miller and I are standing up for workers and families in energy-producing communities across the country, including those in West Virginia. The Protect Our Power Plants Act would maintain America’s status as a leading global energy producer and prevent the EPA’s current proposal from inflicting further damage on our state.”

Miller, who represents District 1, the southern half of the state, said, “The Environment Protection Agency has overstepped their role and is waging war on power plants across the United States. The Biden administration and Washington Democrats continue to shut down domestic energy production in the name of their Green New Deal agenda while the United States should be focused on maintaining its energy dominance. West Virginia will not stand for this spineless, and frankly, ridiculous rule. Senator Capito and I are focused on promoting American energy policies that will ensure West Virginia remains an energy dominant state for years to come.”

The West Virginia Coal Association on Tuesday voiced its support for the bill. “Thank you, Senator Capito and Congresswoman Miller, for your unwavering support of West Virginia’s coal and fossil fuel industries. The POPP Act, if passed into law, will prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing its recently announced proposal that would force the closure of coal- and gas-fired power plants.”

The association said, “EPA’s actions are nothing more than a continuation and escalation of the national Democratic Party’s decades-long War on Coal and threaten the livelihood of tens of thousands of West Virginians.”

In a separate announcement, Sen. Joe Manchin said he has asked EPA Administrator Michael Regan for a 60-day extension of the public comment period for the rule, and called for the EPA to hold at least one public hearing in West Virginia.

He said, “As the state with the largest percentage of coal-fired power and the second-largest producer of coal, EPA’s proposal will disproportionately harm West Virginia’s energy security and economy. Over the last decade, EPA regulations have contributed towards nearly 4 gigawatts of generator retirements in West Virginia. Residents and businesses in our state deserve an opportunity to speak face-to-face with EPA about the impacts of this proposed rule and other recently-announced EPA regulations.”

Manchin noted that “the EPA only allowed for a 60-day comment period for the power plant CO2 rule, which is far shorter than the comment period for similar rules and not sufficient enough time to evaluate the economic and operational implications on the power plant sector. The Biden Administration’s missteps could force coal- and gas-fired power plants to shut down prematurely, endangering electric reliability and energy security.”

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