Sen. Bob Corker has joined Sen. Lamar Alexander in voicing general support for themselves the policy underlying a new Obama administration clean-air rule that would curb the amount of pollutants spewed from coal-fired power plants, reports the Tennessean.
But Corker said the Environmental Protection Agency is not giving utilities enough time to meet the new standards and he is co-sponsoring legislation aimed at extending the time period from three years to five. (Note: Alexander also backs a delay.)
“We’re not for in any way lessening the standards,” Corker told The Tennessean’s editorial board on Monday. “We would just like to do this in a little bit more pragmatic way.”
…Alexander has fought for years to enact tougher clean-air rules and prevent pollutants from blowing into Tennessee from other states.
The new EPA rule would cut allowable emissions of mercury and other hazardous substances from coal-fired power plants. The rule, known as Utility MACT, requires power plants to emit as little mercury by 2016 as the cleanest 12 percent emit today.
But some conservative groups have slammed the Obama administration proposal, saying it would add billions in costs and result in fewer jobs for Tennesseans. Television ads are airing in Tennessee criticizing Alexander, saying his support for the rule is a vote against the state’s residents.
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., has introduced a resolution of disapproval that would prevent the EPA from putting the new rule in place. The resolution requires a simple up-or-down vote, scheduled for today.
Note: A Corker news release on the issue is below.
News release from Sen. Bob Corker’s office:
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., today said utilities need additional time to comply with federal clean air regulations, known as the “Utility MACT” rule, to avoid higher energy prices and less reliable power that would harm consumers and businesses. Until that happens, Corker, who is a cosponsor of the Fair Compliance Act (S. 1833) to extend the compliance date, said he will vote in favor of a congressional resolution of disapproval (CRA) to invalidate the Environment Protection Agency’s proposed rule and urge Congress to pass legislation extending the deadline. A vote on the CRA is expected today.
“I strongly support efforts to clean the air and control mercury emissions, but as local utilities and industrial users told me last fall at an energy roundtable in Tennessee, regulations should be implemented in a reasonable timeframe that allows users to plan for infrastructure upgrades over time so they can meet the new requirements without needlessly increasing energy prices,” Corker said. “This EPA rule, as written, would mean that every utility in the country would have to make infrastructure upgrades in a short timeframe, creating a demand that would unnecessarily increase the cost of the infrastructure upgrades, and those costs will inevitably be passed along to consumers. That’s why I’m cosponsoring the Fair Compliance Act to give utilities more time to meet the new standards without unnecessarily increasing energy prices or diminishing the reliability of power in Tennessee. I would prefer to be voting on that bill, but in absence of that opportunity, it’s important to send a message through a resolution that power generators must have adequate time to comply or consumers will pay the price and manufacturers’ ability to compete and create jobs will suffer.”
Last October in Chattanooga, Corker convened a roundtable of representatives from the utility, manufacturing, and energy industries who described the challenges of providing competitively priced energy despite rising demand and an increasingly complex regulatory environment. Among the most significant concerns raised were compliance costs from pending federal regulations that will increase the price of power and the expense of doing business in the Tennessee Valley.
In 2004, as mayor of Chattanooga, Corker negotiated, and implemented in coordination with the Hamilton County mayor, an early action compact with the EPA to avoid nonattainment status with federal clean air regulations in Hamilton County. Had that agreement not been reached, the ability of Chattanooga to recruit major companies like Volkswagen would have come to a grinding halt. Based on experiences like that one, Corker fully understands the role clean air regulations play in the recruitment of industry.