The Senate rejected an attempt Thursday to overturn an Obama administration rule to reduce emissions by utility power plants.
The Senate voted 56-41 against a bill to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating power-plant air pollution that drifts across state lines. The rule affects utilities in 27 states, including Indiana.
The vote was largely along party lines. Two Democrats and thirty-nine Republicans supported blocking the rule, while 48 Democrats, six Republicans and two independents opposed the bill, introduced by freshman Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., argued on the floor that Midwest manufacturers will be hurt by the costs that utilities will bear – and pass on to customers – to comply with the rule, which takes effect Jan. 1.
Electric utilities in Indiana either must upgrade or close their power plants, Coats warned. He forecast utility rate increases of up to 30.percent as a result.
"Our economy is not based on maple syrup or wine from Napa Valley, it's based on major huge industries that make what America needs to move people around," Coats said about auto and rail manufacturers. "It also provides a lot of jobs."
Sens. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, also voted to block the rule, while Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, voted to let the rule stand.
After the vote, Coats and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who also supported Paul's bill, promoted their own bill that would delay utilities' compliance with the cross-state pollution rule and another regulation for cutting mercury emissions by utility power plants.
"We do nothing to stop the progress that's been made over many, many years in regards to cleaning up our air," Coats said on the floor.
Instead, he said the Fair Compliance Act would buy time for utilities to retrofit their plants. Manchin said their bill had the support of construction and mine workers as well as utilities, including American Electric Power.
The bill would delay compliance until 2017 for both rules. The mercury emissions rule is scheduled to take effect in 2015.