US House blocks carbon emission rules, Obama to veto

The so-called disapproval resolutions, which already passed the Republican-controlled Senate, dealt a largely symbolic yet blunt rebuke to Mr Obama.
The so-called disapproval resolutions, which already passed the Republican-controlled Senate, dealt a largely symbolic yet blunt rebuke to Mr Obama.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US House Republicans voted on Tuesday (Dec 1) to block President Barack Obama's regulations on reducing greenhouse gas emissions - a move certain to spark his veto - as negotiators work on a global climate deal in Paris.

The two measures, rolling back the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) new emission rules for power plants, passed the chamber largely along party lines.

The so-called disapproval resolutions, which already passed the Republican-controlled Senate, dealt a largely symbolic yet blunt rebuke to Mr Obama, who attended the start of a major UN climate summit in the French capital.

The White House has said Mr Obama would veto the resolutions and Congress does not appear to have sufficient votes to override the veto.

Many conservatives in Congress deny that climate change is a result of human industry and agriculture, and have opposed emissions controls designed to slow global warming.

The far-reaching regulations form a core of Mr Obama's efforts to reduce overall US greenhouse gas emissions.

Republicans seemed almost gleeful at the prospect of blocking his emissions rules just as international negotiators sought to tame global warming.

"We want the House to adopt this resolution while the climate change conference is going on in France so that the world will know that in America there is a disagreement about the extreme power grab that this president is initiating under his clean energy plan," Republican Ed Whitfield said before the votes.

The EPA rules angered Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is from the coal-producing state of Kentucky, when the White House announced Mr Obama's Clean Power Plan in August.

They argue that the economic cost of the endeavour, particularly in coal mining states, would cripple industry and hike energy costs for millions of Americans.

Under the rules, the power sector's carbon dioxide emissions will have to be cut by at least 32 per cent below 2005 levels by the year 2030.

Congressman Mike Bost slammed Mr Obama's Clean Power Plan as "a dagger aimed at the heart of the coal industry."

The first measure, blocking limits on existing power plants, passed by 242 votes to 180, while the second, on new plants, passed 235 to 188, with all but four Democrats opposed to each.

The votes are part of a concerted Republican effort to stymie Mr Obama on energy regulation and what they say is his abuse of executive authority to impose unrealistic, job-killing restrictions on industry.

They have also introduced House legislation that cuts through government red tape to streamline the permitting processes for new private energy projects and provides regulatory relief from burdensome efficiency mandates.

Twenty-seven of the 50 US states have sued to try to halt Mr Obama's Clean Power Plan, and Mr McConnell has noted that "the next president could tear it up."

But Democrats insist Republicans are living in a "fantasy world" when it comes to rejecting science and opposing efforts to tame global warming.

"Their denial, quite frankly, is frightening," House Democrat Jim McGovern said on the House floor.

"We're at an important crossroads," he added. "It is up to us to try to reverse this trend, not bury our heads in the sand."