US House passes bill to delay major environmental rules

23 September 2011 20:03  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The US House of Representatives on Friday approved a bill that would delay two major federal rules affecting electric power generation and require cost-benefit analysis of other existing and pending environmental regulations.

The bill, HR-2401, the “Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impact on the Nation” or TRAIN Act, has been broadly supported by US industry, including chemicals manufacturers, amid fears that a rash of Obama administration environmental rules could raise US power costs sharply and further undermine the wobbly economy.

The White House already has indicated that if the House-approved bill passes the Senate and is sent to President Barack Obama, he will likely veto it.

The bill was approved by a vote of 249-169, largely along part lines but with 19 Democratic members of the House joining 230 Republicans. Only four Republicans voted against it, as did 165 Democrats.

Among other things, HR-2401 would immediately suspend two major new rules issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the so-called Utility MACT and the cross-state air pollution regulation (CSAPR).

The Utility MACT, formally the utility maximum achievable control technology (MACT) rule, would put sharp new limits on emissions by electric power generating plants.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and other production and process industries contend that the Utility MACT would be the most expensive direct rule in EPA history.

A study commissioned by a trade group made up largely of chemicals manufacturers, charges that the Utility MACT would add $18bn (€13bn) annually for 20 years to the cost of electric power generation and would force shutdown of as much as 13% of the nation's existing generating capacity. 

Those closures, say officials at the Industrial Energy Consumers of America (IECA), would be necessary because meeting the Utility MACT requirements would be cost-prohibitive for many current coal-fired power plants.

Still more plant closures and increased power-generating costs would result from the cross-state air pollution rule, said NAM.

That EPA rule requires utilities in 27 states to cut their emissions significantly on grounds that their pollution-generating power plants contaminate states that are downwind.

In addition to blocking EPA implementation of both the Utility MACT and CSAPR, the bill would require third-party cost-benefit analysis of all pending and proposed EPA regulations that potentially could affect the US energy and manufacturing sectors.

In a statement, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) charged that the bill would “require the preparation of costly, unnecessary and redundant reports” and would “slow or undermine important public health protections”.

“If the president is presented with HR-2401, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill,” the OMB said. 

Although HR-2401 has cleared the House, it faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim, one-vote majority.

($1 = €0.73)

Paul Hodges studies key influences shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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