POLITICS
07/08/2014 04:01 pm ET Updated Sep 07, 2014

House Republican Spending Bill Seeks To Block Obama's Carbon Rules

ASSOCIATED PRESS

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON, July 8 (Reuters) - Republicans in the House of Representatives on Tuesday ratcheted up efforts to stop the Obama administration's proposed curbs on power-plant carbon emissions by including a prohibition on such rules in must-pass spending legislation.

The provision has little chance of becoming law due to opposition from President Barack Obama and Democrats who control the Senate, but it could help cause passage of normal spending bills to grind to a halt this year.

That could threaten a repeat of last October's 16-day government shutdown despite a deal aimed at returning Congress to its normal budgeting process after years of bitter fiscal standoffs.

The House Appropriations Committee's proposed measure, part of a $30.2 billion spending bill for the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Interior, would bar the EPA from using funds to implement new greenhouse gas regulations on new and existing power plants.

It mirrors an attempt last month by the top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, to protect his state's coal industry from the proposed EPA regulations by attaching an amendment to a similar spending bill in the Senate.

McConnell's effort drew a veto threat from the White House and prompted Senate Democrats to cancel a vote on the spending bill because they feared his pro-coal amendment might pass on a simple majority vote. The episode has largely halted the appropriations process in the Senate until a dispute over amendments can be resolved.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, also from Kentucky, said in a statement: "This legislation contains important provisions to rein in the harmful regulatory overreach of federal bureaucracies that will unnecessarily cause job loss and that will weaken our recovering economy."

The EPA regulations proposed in early June would set the U.S. power sector on a path to cut carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels, forming the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's climate change strategy. Some plants would be forced to close or shift from coal to lower-carbon fuels such as natural gas.

The proposed House measure would cut EPA's funding by 9 percent, or $717 million to a total of $7.5 billion and limit its staff to 15,000, the lowest level since 1989.

It seeks to prohibit the agency from implementing rule changes to the Clean Water Act that could restrict land alterations by farmers and developers and to block changes to regulations that effectively allow mining firms to dump mine waste into streams.

The spending bill also would delay any designation of the greater sage grouse as an endangered species for a year. Federal protection for the chicken-sized fowl native to several western states could impose limits on oil and gas exploration, hunting and ranching in its habitat.

"It's clear that House Republicans have once again chosen to play politics with America's air and water rather than put forward a reasonable bill with a chance at becoming law," Joshua Saks, the National Wildlife Federation's legislative director, said in a statement. (Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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