The White House is threatening to veto a GOP-backed energy bill to protect coal plants from environmental rules, which is slated for a vote on the House floor this week.
The bill would give certain coal-fired power plants special allowances to continue operating under a number of the Environmental Protection Agency power plant rules, including landmark rules governing mercury and sulfur dioxide gas that is blamed for closing dozens of coal plants at a cost of $9 billion per year.
"The administration strongly opposes H.R. 3797, which would threaten the health of Americans by requiring changes to the Environmental Protection Agency's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for electric generating units that use coal refuse as their main fuel source," the White House Office of Management and Budget said Monday.
The bill would also restrict the "market-based approach" currently in place under the cross-state rule, which is used to allocate allowances to power plants that emit sulfur dioxide. This would raise "the costs of achieving the pollution reduction required by the rule," the White House says.
"The bill also would undermine the emissions limits for hazardous acid gases from those established under the MATS, leading to increased health and environmental impacts from increased emissions of hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, other harmful acid gases, and sulfur dioxide," the White House said.
The bill passed the House energy committee, 29-22, along party lines last month. Democratic members of the committee, including ranking member Frank Pallone of New Jersey, tried hard to block the measure by forcing roll call votes on amendments that would hobble the GOP-backed measure.
New York Democrats Rep. Paul Tonko and Rep. Eliot Engel argued that the bill seeks to pick winners and losers and thereby takes power away from the states in keeping the plants operational. It "tips the scales for coal refuse plants over all other plants," Pallone said.