Senate lawmakers on Wednesday blocked a GOP-led effort to scuttle Environmental Protection Agency regulations that mandate cuts in mercury pollution and other toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants.
The 46-53 vote against Sen. James Inhofe’s (R-Okla.) resolution staves off what would have been a stinging election-year rebuke of the White House green agenda.
Five Republicans joined 48 Democrats in blocking Inhofe’s measure to overturn regulations that coal industry groups and other critics contend will hurt the economy, cause power costs to spike and force numerous plants to shutter.
Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Olympia Snowe (Maine), Susan Collins (Maine), Scott Brown (Mass.), and Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) opposed Inhofe’s plan. Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Mark Warner (Va.), and Jim Webb (Va.) joined most Republicans in supporting Inhofe’s failed proposal.
“A substantial amount of the electricity we produce in the country comes from coal. And this new regulation would devastate the jobs that depend on this cheap, abundant resource,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on the Senate floor Wednesday ahead of the vote.
But backers of the rules say the claims of economic harm are vastly overblown, and argue that planned coal-plant closures stem from an array of factors, including competition from low-cost natural gas.