WASHINGTON — The Democrat-controlled Senate defeated a bid today to block the Environmental Protection Agency from setting the first federal standards to reduce toxic air pollution from power plants.
Republicans were behind the effort, but they didn’t get enough votes to move ahead.
It was the second time in this Congress that Senate Republicans failed to muster a majority to scrap a rule aimed at curbing air pollution from primarily coal-fired power plants.
Tennessee’s Republican senators split on the issue. Sen. Lamar Alexander was among five Republicans who voted against the resolution of disapproval sponsored by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla.; Bob Corker voted for it.
The vote was 46 in favor of the resolution, 53 against.
Inhofe’s resolution would have overturned a long-overdue regulation to slash mercury and other toxic emissions from the oldest and most polluting oil- and coal-fired power plants.
Since 1990, the EPA has had that power, and in 2000 concluded that such action was necessary.
But it wasn’t until late last year that the Obama administration approved new regulations, after a court threw out an attempt by the Bush administration to exempt power plants from such controls.
President Barack Obama, in a video released at the time, said his administration had had enough of the decades of delays caused by special interests.
In a veto threat this week, the White House said the GOP attempt, if successful, could have prevented the government from ever controlling toxic power plant pollution.
Alexander, Tennessee’s senior senator, announced last week that he would oppose Inhofe’s resolution, saying the EPA rule would contribute to the health of the state’s residents and encourage neighboring states to limit pollution crossing in to Tennessee. Alexander, however, has introduced legislation with Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., to extend the time for utilities to comply with the rule.
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