WASHINGTON — Sen. Jim Inhofe urged his colleagues on Tuesday to support his effort to kill a new air pollution rule, while an Arkansas senator called Inhofe's proposal “over the top” and said it would allow utility companies to pollute at will.
Inhofe, R-Tulsa, has been trying to round up support to block the implementation of a rule that would limit the emissions of mercury and toxic chemicals from power plants.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Inhofe said the rule is part of President Barack Obama's “war on coal” and that it would cost jobs in numerous coal-producing states while raising consumers' electricity bills.
Inhofe also launched a pre-emptive strike on a bipartisan alternative to his bill, which would delay the new rule for six years to give utility companies time to adapt.
Inhofe said the alternative, by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., was designed to give senators “cover'' in opposing the resolution to block the EPA rule altogether.
“I'd like to say to my colleagues that your constituents will see right through those of you who choose the cover bill,” Inhofe said. “The American people are pretty smart and they know that there is only one real solution and that's to stop, not just delay, EPA's war on coal.”
Alexander and Pryor spoke a few hours after Inhofe and rejected his arguments, saying the new rule had been expected by utility companies ever since Congress updated the Clean Air Act in 1990.
Pryor said he didn't think the EPA's timetable giving utility companies three years to comply with the new rule was fair. But he said the law allows states to grant a year extension and that the president can grant another two years with an executive order.
Pryor said the alternative he and Alexander are offering would grant the six years contemplated in the law.
Blocking the rule entirely, he said, would be “over the top” and create legal problems for trying to regulate pollution.