MTN News: Republicans in Congress pass bill to block clean-power regs; veto likely

HELENA – Montana’s two Republican members of Congress are hailing the passage of bills blocking the Obama administration’s clean power plan – but the bills face an almost certain veto.

“I urge (President Barack Obama) to drop his veto threat and sign into law this common-sense legislation to rein in the unchecked fourth branch of government and protect thousands of good-paying union and tribal jobs,” Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., said in a statement Tuesday.

Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont, also said he is “proud to lead the fight against these onerous Washington regulations,” along with Daines and Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, also a Republican.

The clean-power plan creates new standards to limit carbon emissions from power plants.

Zinke voted Tuesday for the measures blocking the plan. They passed the House on largely partisan votes, with Republicans in favor.

The Senate passed the main bill two weeks ago on a 52-46 vote, with Daines in favor. Neither vote had enough support to override a presidential veto.

Under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s clean power rules, Montana must reduce carbon emissions in the state by 41 percent or 47 percent, depending on how it chooses to comply.

Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, has appointed an advisory council to help the state devise its compliance plan.

State Department of Environmental Quality Director Tom Livers has said the state likely will ask for an extension of the September 2016 deadline for submitting its plan.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., voted against the resolutions two weeks ago.

He said in a statement he’s unhappy that Montana’s target has been increased, but that stopping the process isn’t the answer.

“If we’re going to get serious about strengthening our state’s top industries that rely on clean air and water to thrive, we can’t block future attempts to address climate change,” Tester said.

Congress should follow Montana’s lead and bring affected parties together to “tackle the issue,” he added.

The White House last month said the president will veto the measures.

Both Daines and Zinke said the rules are bad for Montana’s economy and the coal industry.

“We need to invest in our clean coal resources, rather than perpetually punish them,” Zinke said. “I believe Montana knows how to best manage our power and our resources, much better than unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., do.”