A GOP senator is racing against the clock to pass a bill that would push back compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency's strict smog rules, though it's not clear the Senate will move to pass it in an election year.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., chairwoman of the environment committee's clean air panel, is working to find time to markup the bill before the August recess, because she suspects nothing will get done in the fall.
"My bill already passed the House. I think we will probably try to mark the bill up here in committee. And I think we'll, hopefully, be successful," she told the Washington Examiner.
Republicans in the Senate support the legislation for the most part, while Democrats and the White House are opposed.
She hopes to have a markup in the Environment and Public Works Committee "before we break for the summer." Staff said negotiations are underway with the chairman of the full committee, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and the hope is to have a markup on the bill and pass it at the committee level in July.
After that, "it's going to be difficult to get anything on the floor," she said. "But we would sure like to have a debate on the floor. I think it would be very enlightening."
The House passed its version of Senate bill on June 8 along party lines. The bill, the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2016, wouldn't scuttle the EPA regulation, but would delay compliance and restrict the agency's ability to set even more stringent targets.
"EPA's current approach to setting new ozone standards is a moving target, making it difficult for states to comply," Capito said after the bill passed on the House floor. "I am glad that the House passed this commonsense legislation that will create a more certain regulatory environment and protect jobs.
"Today's vote is a step in the right direction, and I look forward to a legislative hearing in the Senate soon," she said. She held her first hearing on the bill last month.
The EPA's rules regulate smog-forming ozone emissions through the enactment of strict standards that industry groups and a number of states argue are impossible to meet without curtailing development in dozens of counties across the country.
The legislation is also seen as a way to check the EPA, which enacted new 2015 ozone rules before the majority of states had the chance to meet the current 2008 standards. Capito's bill would hold back implementation until the states have had a chance to comply with the earlier rules.
The regulations, like many of EPA's rules, are being contested in federal court.
The current rule requires ozone emissions to be ratcheted down from 75 to 70 parts per billion (ppb). It's an improvement from the proposed rule that considered going lower to 65 ppb. But it's still not enough of a difference to make it achievable, critics say.
The ozone regulations are often hailed by industry as the most costly regulations in history. They say the rules are so strict that many national parks and areas of pristine wilderness would be unable to comply, making it impossible for any industrialized area to comply.
Once an area is in a state of "nonattainment," it must lower emissions through a series of EPA-approved means that are typically expensive, while making non-compliant cities or regions unattractive to business, new development, and highway and infrastructure construction.