The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Friday that would block a number of broad regulations to reduce unhealthy air emissions.
Passage of the bill was expected in the Republican-controlled House, where lawmakers have targeted Environmental Protection Agency air rules, saying they would kill jobs and laden businesses with billions of dollars in additional costs at the worst possible time.
“The Obama administration is moving too fast and showing little regard for the economic consequences of their energy and environmental policies,” said Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.), who sponsored the bill.
The vote on the so-called Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation, or TRAIN, was 249 to 169. It was supported by fewer than 20 Democrats.
The bill, which must be passed in the Democratic-controlled Senate and signed by President Obama to become law, would delay certain EPA moves by setting up an interagency panel led by the Commerce Department. The panel would be tasked with assessing the impact of EPA rules on the economy, thus delaying their implementation.
Environmentalists slammed the move, saying it would change the process for setting national air standards and lead to premature deaths from heart and lung illnesses.
“Sacrificing tens of thousands of American lives will not create more jobs,” said Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club. “Burdening the American people with billions of dollars in health bills will not lead to economic growth.”
The vote would delay until at least February 2013 the effective dates of two clean-air regulations that the EPA was planning to phase in next year.
One of those sets of regulations, the Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology Rule, would limit the discharge of acid gases and toxins such as mercury and arsenic from coal- and oil-fired power plants. To meet EPA standards, the plants would have to install equipment to help clean emissions of those pollutants.
The second set of regulations — the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule — would limit power-plant emissions in 28 states that pollute other states with smog and soot. That rule, according to the EPA, would avert 13,000 to 34,000 premature deaths each year nationwide while generating billions of dollars in annual benefits to the U.S. economy.
Critics said that the regulations would place costly burdens on the private sector, raise electricity bills and make the recession worse.