McConnell to Move Against EPA Coal Regulations

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. launched an effort Thursday to block new Environmental Protection Agency regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions from new stationary power plants — the latest in an ongoing battle between McConnell and the White House over coal.

"Kentucky is facing a real crisis here," McConnell said on the Senate floor. "The Obama administration appears to be sending signals that its latest regulation is just the beginning in a new, expanded front in its war on coal."

McConnell will face voters in November for re-election and is facing a primary challenge from the right.

"Already, the administration’s regulations have played a significant role in causing coal jobs in my state to plummet," McConnell continued. "These are good jobs that pay more than $1 billion in annual wages to my constituents. And for every miner with a job, three more Kentuckians will hold a coal-dependent job too."

McConnell said he, backed by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and most of the GOP conference, plans to file a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act "to ensure a vote to stop this devastating rule.”

The proposed rule — which McConnell said "would effectively ban coal-fired power plants from being built in the future" — was published in the federal register last week, which kicked off a 60-day comment period.

He has sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office seeking a ruling that EPA's regulation are subject to congressional review.

A resolution of disapproval cannot be filibustered and needs only a simple majority in the Senate to pass if acted on during a 60-day window, but they can be vetoed by the president — all but ensuring that McConnell's effort will fail.

In the letter he calls for quick action and notes that the EPA rule has been promulgated under a provision of the Clean Air Act that makes any power plant construction commenced after the publication of the regulations subject to the new standard.

"Given that our nation has the world's largest estimated recoverable reserves of coal, I believe that the federal government should not be blocking the procurement and development of this important resource," McConnell said in the letter.