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U.S. House backs bill to block EPA power plant rule

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The Republican-controlled U.S. House moved Thursday to block President Barack Obama's plan to limit carbon emissions from new power plants, an election-year strike at the White House aimed at portraying Obama as a job killer.

Ten coal-state or Southern Democrats joined with Republicans to approve the bill, 229-183. Supporters said the measure was part of a strategy to fight back against what they call the Obama administration's "war on coal."

Obama's proposal, a key part of his plan to fight climate change, would set the first national limits on heat-trapping pollution from future power plants.

A measure sponsored by Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., would require the Environmental Protection Agency to set carbon emissions standards based on technology that has been in use for at least a year. Republicans and some coal-state Democrats say the EPA rule is based on carbon-capturing technology that does not currently exist and wouldn't make a difference in climate change even it it did.

Many states count on coal for most of their power needs, Indiana, which gets more than 80 percent of its electricity from coal-fired plants.

Whitfield, chairman of a House subcommittee on energy and power, called the power plant proposal "one of the most extreme regulations of the Obama administration," adding that it would "make it impossible to build a new coal-fired power plant in America."

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., denounced the measure as "a science-denial bill" that would strip the EPA of its ability to block carbon pollution. Waxman and other Democrats said the bill was a blatant attempt to thwart the EPA and villify the Obama administration in an election year.

The White House has threatened to veto the measure, saying it would "undermine public health protections of the Clean Air Act and stop U.S. progress in cutting dangerous carbon pollution from power plants." Power plants account for about one-third of U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, the EPA says.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and other officials have said the proposed rule — the first of two major regulations aimed at limiting carbon pollution from power plants — is based on carbon reduction methods that are "technically feasible" and under development in at least four sites. The rule affecting future plants is a prelude to a more ambitious plan, expected later this year, to control carbon pollution at existing power plants.

In January, McCarthy told the Senate Environment Committee: "We looked at the data available. We looked at the technologies. We made a determination that (carbon capture and storage technology) was the best system for emission reductions for coal facilities moving forward, because it was technically feasible and it would lead to significant emission reductions."

Whitfield and other critics dispute that, saying carbon capture technology is years away from being commercially viable.

The EPA rule would "mandate (emission) control technologies for power plants that are not yet commercially available, effectively banning new coal-fired power plants ... and setting a dangerous precedent that could cascade to other fuels," the National Association of Manufacturers said in a letter supporting Whitfield's bill.

But environmental groups said the bill would gut the EPA's authority to reduce carbon pollution.

"The bill sets up impossible tests for any EPA standard reducing carbon pollution to meet and allows utilities to decide what regulations will be for new power plants — effectively delaying the best emissions reductions technology for years or even decades," the League of Conservation Voters said in a letter urging lawmakers to oppose the bill.

While Whitfield's bill easily cleared the Republican-controlled House, the fate of a companion measure sponsored by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is less certain.

Manchin has said his bill would ensure that pollution standards imposed by the EPA are realistic, calling the current proposal "unattainable under today's technology."

A spokesman for Manchin said Thursday that the senator plans to meet with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats to discuss a path forward for the bill.

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  • What happened to clean coal???
    It was many election cycles ago that the coal industry was promoting its "Clean Coal" technology. Now that their hand is being called, they say no such technology exists. In the mean time, thousands of jobs are being created in the renewable energy field. Imagine how many more we would create if utilities began to add more of these installations.

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  1. How much you wanna bet, that 70% of the jobs created there (after construction) are minimum wage? And Harvey is correct, the vast majority of residents in this project will drive to their jobs, and to think otherwise, is like Harvey says, a pipe dream. Someone working at a restaurant or retail store will not be able to afford living there. What ever happened to people who wanted to build buildings, paying for it themselves? Not a fan of these tax deals.

  2. Uh, no GeorgeP. The project is supposed to bring on 1,000 jobs and those people along with the people that will be living in the new residential will be driving to their jobs. The walkable stuff is a pipe dream. Besides, walkable is defined as having all daily necessities within 1/2 mile. That's not the case here. Never will be.

  3. Brad is on to something there. The merger of the Formula E and IndyCar Series would give IndyCar access to International markets and Formula E access the Indianapolis 500, not to mention some other events in the USA. Maybe after 2016 but before the new Dallara is rolled out for 2018. This give IndyCar two more seasons to run the DW12 and Formula E to get charged up, pun intended. Then shock the racing world, pun intended, but making the 101st Indianapolis 500 a stellar, groundbreaking event: The first all-electric Indy 500, and use that platform to promote the future of the sport.

  4. No, HarveyF, the exact opposite. Greater density and closeness to retail and everyday necessities reduces traffic. When one has to drive miles for necessities, all those cars are on the roads for many miles. When reasonable density is built, low rise in this case, in the middle of a thriving retail area, one has to drive far less, actually reducing the number of cars on the road.

  5. The Indy Star announced today the appointment of a new Beverage Reporter! So instead of insightful reports on Indy pro sports and Indiana college teams, you now get to read stories about the 432nd new brewery open or some obscure Hoosier winery winning a county fair blue ribbon. Yep, that's the coverage we Star readers crave. Not.

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