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EPA Defends New Emissions Rules to House Republicans

WASHINGTON (CN) - Party lines prevailed Wednesday at a House hearing on power-plant regulations that the government calls necessary to fight climate change.

The Environmental Protection Agency regulations in question require states to submit plans within the next three years, detailing how they will meet more rigorous carbon-emissions standards at new fossil-fuel power plants by 2030.

Republicans with the House Committee on Energy and Commerce told the EPA's Janet McCabe on Wednesday that the rule effectively implements a cap-and-trade program without congressional approval.

"You've actually become a legislative arm," Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., said in his opening statement. "Because Congress considered cap and trade, Congress considered CO2 emissions, and Congress did not act. And I've heard people at EPA and the president say repeatedly, 'Congress did not act, so we are going to act.'"

McCabe, the acting EPA administrator for air and radiation, rejected these suggestions, directly telling the committee multiple times that the program does not create a cap-and-trade program.

Furthermore, the EPA reached out to utilities in developing the rules, and they supported states taking up rate-based plans as part of their efforts to comply, McCabe said.

Republicans thundered the move as an end-run around the Supreme Court's ruling in Michigan v. EPA , which invalidated portions of an EPA rule that would have regulated emissions from U.S. power plants.

They also accused the EPA of putting an unnecessary burden on the economy, especially in coal-producing states, without having a significant impact on worldwide CO2 levels. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.V., unrolled a 28-foot-long sheet of EPA regulations over his desk for his opening statement, during which he lamented the number of unemployed coal miners in his state.

"You're going to sacrifice our economy through this rule and drive another dagger into the hearts of the coal fields around this country, and all across because of electricity," McKinley told McCabe during the hearing.

But many Democrats on the committee defended the agency's rules, hailing them as important steps to combat climate change and its many effects on the country. The EPA says the rule would cut lost school days and reduce the allergy season as a result of a cut in carbon emissions and better air quality.

"The atmosphere is not a garbage dump, especially in the United States " Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif. "And we need to be responsible for what we are putting into the air."

Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill, accused his Republican colleagues of putting their "collective heads in the sand" about climate change.

Repeatedly emphasized climate change is not a "hoax," McCabe insisted the EPA rules were the product of extensive outreach and planning and that the agency responded to states' comments and pushed back the date the rules would take effect.

Citing the potential to engender change far beyond the country's borders, McCabe noted that the regulations could press China and India to bring down their carbon emissions in the effort to curb global warming.

"It's shown real leadership from the United States," McCabe said.

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