Washington, 13 September (Argus) — The House is preparing for an election season vote on legislation that would prohibit or delay any new federal regulations affecting the coal industry.
The bill, HR 3409, is a suite of various proposals that have already been approved by the Republican-controlled House or reported out of committee. None of the proposals has a chance of becoming law before November's election and face an uncertain future after that in the new Congress next year.
The proposals range from an outright ban on regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act to prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from implementing the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule or any “substantially similar” regulation. It also prohibits EPA from implementing its mercury and air toxics standards, gives states primary authority over regulation of coal combustion wastes and would restrict the ability of the Interior Department to issue new surface mining regulations.
The House Rules Committee yesterday asked members to submit any amendments to the bill by 10am ET on 19 September, in preparation for a floor vote on the legislation. The committee sets the rules of debate, including how many amendments can be offered, in advance of any floor vote. But no date has been set for the committee to consider the bill, a committee spokesman said.
The bill would keep the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) in place while EPA develops a replacement, but it would not allow the agency to begin work on one for three years. It would also prohibit EPA from restricting SO2 and NOX allowance trading between entities in different states and would require the agency to allow states at least three years to implement the new program once it issues regulations. It would also require basing any program on monitored emissions data rather than modeling.
The cross-state rule, which EPA finalized last year as a replacement for CAIR, would have limited interstate trading as a way to ensure that upwind states reduce emissions that make it difficult for downwind states to meet federal air quality standards. A federal court last month stuck down the rule, saying EPA overstepped its authority in writing key provisions of the regulation. The court said EPA wrote the rule in a way that would require some states to reduce emissions beyond their contribution to downwind pollution.
The bill also would require EPA to rewrite its mercury rules for coal- and oil-fired generators, taking into account factors such as the cost of reducing emissions and any effect on employment. The agency would have to wait a year after a report on the economic effects of various federal regulations before it issues new regulations. The report is due by 30 September 2013. The bill would also require at least five years for utilities to comply once the regulations are finalized.
EPA's current standards require generators to reduce mercury emissions by about 90pc by 2015, though the agency and states can allow individual units an extra year or two to comply.
The bill would also repeal all steps EPA has taken to date to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs), including its endangerment finding and tailoring rule for air permits. And it would amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit any regulation of GHGs, except for automobile emissions standards.
The Obama administration last month finalized emissions and fuel economy rules that would require new cars and light trucks to meet the equivalent of a 54.5 miles/USG standard by 2025.
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