(Adds response from McConnell's Democratic opponent, letter to
By Valerie Volcovici
WASHINGTON, June 3 Senate Minority Leader Mitch
McConnell on Tuesday introduced a bill that would try to block
newly proposed government regulations that seek to curb carbon
emissions from U.S. power plants.
McConnell, a Republican who represents Kentucky - a major
coal-producing state which is also reliant on coal for
electricity generation - faces a tight re-election battle in
November's elections and has been campaigning on a promise to
protect the state's ailing coal sector.
He launched the legislation on the Senate floor, saying it
would block the Environmental Protection Agency's rules unless
proof was provided that the regulations will not threaten
electric reliability, raise electricity prices or cost jobs.
The EPA rules would put the United States on a course to
reduce overall U.S. power plant emissions 30 percent below 2005
levels by 2030, but each state will have its own target.
The proposal will undergo at least four months of public
comments. States, which can comply with individually set goals
using a range of actions, must submit their plans to the EPA by
McConnell said the U.S. Labor Secretary would need to
certify that the EPA rules will not lead to job losses, the
Congressional Budget Office would need to prove they would not
harm economic growth, and the Department of Energy's statistics
arm would need to show they will not raise electricity prices.
Otherwise, his bill would prevent the EPA from proceeding.
The EPA has assigned Kentucky one of the least stringent
goals of reducing the carbon intensity of its power plant fleet,
giving the state a chance to shift away from its coal-dominant
energy mix over several years.
McConnell in January attempted to invoke a rarely used law
to stop the Obama administration from issuing separate rules
that would limit the amount of carbon that new power plants can
pump into the atmosphere.
Last week, the Government Accountability Office rejected
McConnell's request to use the Congressional Review Act, because
that rule is not yet finalized.
Separately, McConnell and more than two dozen other
Republican senators wrote to President Barack Obama on Tuesday,
asking that the EPA rule be withdrawn.
McConnell's Democratic challenger in the Kentucky Senate
race, Alison Lundergan Grimes, said in a statement the responses
were "inadequate" to address the state's concerns over the
future of coal.
Grimes, who polls show is locked in a tight race with the
five-term Senate, released a platform on Tuesday outlining ways
to "protect Kentucky energy jobs."
"We must work to not only rein in the EPA's overburdensome
regulations, but also invest in clean coal technology, support
coal and energy research and keep foreign markets open for
coal," said her campaign manager, Jonathan Hurst.
On Monday, two House lawmakers from the coal-producing state
of West Virginia said they also plan bipartisan legislation to
stop the EPA's power plant rules.
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; editing by Ros Krasny and G