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Saturday, May 25, 2024 | Back issues
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Senate Guts Clean Power|Plan; Obama Vows Veto

WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. Senate on Tuesday night passed a resolution striking down provisions of the Obama administration's landmark Clean Power Plan.

The Clean Power Plan, which the Environmental Protection Agency finalized in August, would put stricter carbon-pollution standards on new, existing and reconstructed power plants and requires states to submit plans by 2030 to comply with the new regulations.

A first resolution condemned rules relating to existing power plants, while the second related to the EPA's regulations on new plants. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, called the combination of the two a "comprehensive solution."

The administration threatened a presidential veto of the resolutions in a statement before the vote Tuesday.

Proponents of the plan hail it as a major step toward addressing climate change and say it would cut back on health problems associated with poor air quality, such as asthma. The administration says the rule is generous with the amount of time it gives states to comply and that its changes would cut carbon pollution by 32 percent from 2005 levels.

"By nullifying the Clean Power Plan, S.J. Res. 24 seeks to block progress towards cleaner energy, eliminating public health and other benefits of up to $54 billion per year by 2030, including thousands fewer premature deaths from air pollution and tens of thousands of fewer childhood asthma attacks each year," the White House said in a statement of administration policy.

But those opposed to the bill argue its rules would hurt already impoverished communities that rely heavily on coal mining and would squeeze Americans with higher energy costs.

"The Obama administration is trying to impose deeply regressive energy regulations that would eliminate good-paying jobs, punish the poor, and make it even harder for Kentuckians to put food on the table," McConnell said on the floor Tuesday morning. "Their effect on global carbon levels? Essentially a rounding error. Their effect on poor and middle-class families? Potentially devastating."

The Senate agreed to both resolutions 54-46.

Three Democrats from coal producing states, Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia broke from their party and voted for both resolutions.

Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Mark Kirk of Illinois voted against both resolutions, while Republican presidential hopefuls Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham missed the vote.

The vote comes about two weeks before major climate talks are scheduled to begin in Paris.

Mary Anne Hitt, director of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, doubted that the Senate's actions will materialize.

"The fossil fuel industry's allies in the Senate have shown yet again that they will resort to any desperate political ploy to protect polluter profits, even if it means the health of American families is the price for it," Hitt said in a statement. "The good news is that these legislative tricks will amount to nothing because they are destined to be rejected by President Obama's veto pen."

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