Tennessee Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker cast opposing votes Wednesday, as the Senate shot down a motion to proceed with a bill that would have overturned an Environmental Protection Agency rule regarding clean air.
The measure failed in a 53-46 vote.
Alexander, who was one of five Republican senators to vote with Democrats to reject the bill, followed through on repeated statements made last week that he would oppose the legislation, sponsored by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla. The bill would have overturned the EPA’s utility maximum achievable control technology, or “MACT,” rule, which regulates the release of mercury and other hazardous emissions for coal-fired plants through required installation of scrubbers, filters, and other measures.
Alexander’s stance made him the target of a $400,000 television campaign which aired across Tennessee televisions last week, linking the senator to President Barack Obama’s “war on coal.” But in remarks made on the senate floor Wednesday, Alexander said he thought upholding the rule was in the best interests of Tennesseans.
“Over the years, I have learned that cleaner air not only means better health, but also means better jobs for Tennesseans,” Alexander said. “And I am proud to stand up on behalf of the people of Tennessee to uphold this clean air rule.”
To drive home his point, Alexander listed the benefits of clean air on health, tourism, and business.
Despite Alexander’s vote against overturning the rule, Sen. Bob Corker aligned with Republicans to vote in favor of it. In a news release, Corker said that while he was in favor of efforts to clean air and control mercury emissions, he did not think utilities were being given adequate time to implement the costly infrastructure upgrades to meet the rule.
“This EPA rule, as written, would mean that every utility in the country would have to make infrastructure upgrades in a shore timeframe, creating a deemed that would unnecessarily increase the cost of the infrastructure upgrades, and those costs will inevitably be passed along to consumers,” Corker said.
As an alternative, Corker said he had cosponsored legislation called the Fair Compliance Act, which would have extended
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