Clean Power Plan Rollback Survives Challenge by Senate Dems

WASHINGTON (CN) – Senate Republicans beat back an effort from Democrats on Thursday to reinstate Obama-era greenhouse gas emission standards for power plants.

The Trump administration finalized the so-called Affordable Clean Energy rule in June to replace Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which aimed to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by 32% by 2030.

Obama’s model allowed states to craft plans for meeting the federal government’s caps on power plants emissions. The rule incentivized states to move away from coal and gas power plants and toward clean, renewable energy sources like wind and solar power. 

Litigation tied the Clean Power Plan up immediately, however, and it never took effect thanks to a Supreme Court stay in 2016.

The Trump administration’s replacement, by contrast, does not offer specific targets for states to hit when crafting emission-curbing plans, only a general focus on making existing plants more efficient. 

Environmental groups say Trump’s Affordable Clean Energy rule will keep dirtier coal power plants in service for longer, which will lead to more emissions and worse air quality while doing nothing to combat the threats of climate change.

Public health and environmental groups have already brought legal challenges to the Trump rule, as have a collection of states.

Senate Democrats took their own shot at the policy on Thursday, relying on a law that allows Congress to pass a resolution to terminate a regulation put in place by a federal agency. The procedure is used relatively rarely and has only once successfully overturned a rule, in large part because the resolution requires the president’s signature, effectively requiring a two-thirds majority vote to succeed.

The Democrats’ push fell well short of that standard on Thursday, failing in a 41-53 vote.

Democrats defended the Obama Clean Power Plan as a critical bulwark against climate change and said the Trump administration’s replacement plan drops the ball on the mission of reducing emissions.

“Time is running out for the United States to meet the existential threat posed by climate change and that’s why this rule is such a grave, grave mistake,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Thursday. 

Republicans bashed the effort, attacking the Obama Clean Power Plan as a job-killing regulation that would raise energy costs. They cast the Trump plan as a more flexible alternative that will give states more power to craft energy policies that will fit their needs.  

“With a vote today, they’re asking us to scrap the Affordable Clean Energy rule and return to a rule that’s unconstitutional, tramples on state’s rights, kills jobs, raises electricity rates and does nothing substantial to reduce emissions,” Senator Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said on the Senate floor before the vote.

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