Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) has announced that he will bring a Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval of the EPA’s Utility MACT (for Maximum Achievable Control Technology) Rule to the Senate floor for a vote on or before Monday, 18th May. Since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is trying to hold as few votes on tough issues as possible before the November elections, this could be the most important vote on an energy or regulatory issue that the Senate takes this year.
Under the Congressional Review Act, the resolution of disapproval, S. J. Res. 37, is a privileged motion. A vote cannot be blocked by the Majority Leader or filibustered and requires only a simple majority to pass.
The Utility MACT Rule would regulate mercury and some other emissions from coal-fired power plants. The proposed limits are so stringent that utilities will be forced to close many coal-fired power plants. This will raise electric rates and threaten electric reliability in many States.
CEI this week published a paper by Marlo Lewis, William Yeatman, and David Bier titled, All Pain and No Gain: the Illusory Benefits of the Utility MACT. It shows that the health benefits claimed by the EPA are non-existent, while the costs to consumers and manufacturers are huge.
The vote on the resolution is likely to be very close. Right now, it looks like it will lose narrowly. Senator Inhofe appears to have the support of forty fellow Republicans and four Democrats. The Democrats are Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.
Five Republicans oppose the resolution or are leaning no. They are Lamar Alexander of Tennessee (whose opposition has been outspoken), Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Susan Collins of Maine, and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. A number of Democrats are not publicly committed. They include: Jon Tester of Montana, Max Baucus of Montana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Jim Webb of Virginia, Mark Warner of Virginia, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.
Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) is still recovering from a stroke, so is not expected to vote. That means that if all other Senators vote, the resolution will need fifty votes to pass. As I see it, Senator Inhofe needs to gain the support of at least two more Republicans and then focus on getting three Democrats who are in tough re-election races in States that mine or use a lot of coal.