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The Road Ahead for the Clean Power Plan

Twenty-five thousand Public Citizen activists joined the 2 million Americans who submitted comments in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan, giving the proposal to cut carbon pollution from power plants strong public support.

Next stop: a final plan. Over the next 7 months, the EPA will review the comments, incorporate them into the proposal and issue a final Clean Power Plan.

But there’s going to be some hostile terrain along the way.

Congressional Republicans who have a majority in both houses and the dirty-energy allies who spent hundreds of millions of dollars to get them there have already signaled that they will do everything in their power to stop the centerpiece of U.S. action on climate.

Here is a closer look at 3 tactics that will likely be deployed to derail the Clean Power Plan:

Tactic: The Flat Tire

Using spending bills to deflate regulatory action

Likely Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has vowed to derail Environmental Protection Agency regulatory efforts through the appropriations process – saying that he feels a “deep responsibility” to stop the power plant regulations, and that his top priority will be “to try to do whatever I can to get the EPA reined in.”

Appropriation bills must be passed to keep the government running. The GOP is expected to attach riders to federal spending bills that would defund EPA’s power plant rules. Which means Republicans may be willing to risk a government shutdown in order to cripple EPA regulations intended to protect our air and slow down disastrous climate disruption. Mitch McConnell’s “deep responsibility” is seriously misplaced and a downright dangerous position considering what’s at stake.

Tactic: The Road Block

Using the Congressional Review Act to block implementation of the Clean Power Plan

The Congressional Review Act (CRA) is a rarely invoked law that allows lawmakers to repeal a regulation with a simple majority vote. But that could change. Mitch McConnell has already attempted to use the CRA to force a vote on the EPA’s regulations on – not yet finalized – new power plants and we are likely to see it dusted off and used again to try to block the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which addresses carbon pollution from existing power plants.

Tactic: The Forced Detour

Using congressional committees to attack and delay clean air and climate regulations

Come January the senator who once called the EPA a Gestapo bureaucracy and believes climate change is a hoax will take over leadership of the Senate’s top environmental committee. It a scenario appropriate only for Alice in Wonderland. But for Senator James Inhofe, he will use his new role to – as one reporter put it – carry water for the fossil-fuel industry, smear climate scientists, and do everything else in his considerable power to prevent the country and the world from confronting the slow motion crisis of climate change.

When it comes to the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, Inhofe has been very clear about his intentions to open investigations on the EPA and tie up the committee with hearings intended to disparage the agency’s proposed clean air regulations.

Clear the Road

The bottom line is Republicans probably do not have the votes to repeal the EPA regulations, but they will use every power they can muster to launch a full-scale attack on the EPA in an attempt to delay, defund and otherwise vilify the agency and its actions on climate change. But these strategies represent more than chest pounding and the wasteful obstructionism that has become the norm. Each vote, hearing and procedural trick gives the GOP a megaphone to hammer on and repeat their false and dangerous rhetoric on climate change and the Clean Power Plan, which over time could potentially wear down Obama’s resolve, weaken the EPA’s position and negatively influencing public opinion.

But what we need is to start drastically reducing the amount of carbon we are pumping into our gasping atmosphere. And we need to do it yesterday. Efforts – regardless of their nature – to stop or delay our plan to rein in climate disrupting pollution should be met with mass public outrage and demands to clear the way for bold aggressive climate action.

Allison Fisher is the Outreach Director for Public Citizen’s Energy and Climate Program