By Nicole Gaudiano
WASHINGTON -- The Senate is expected to vote this week on a measure to block an Environmental Protection Agency rule targeting pollution that crosses state lines and hurts air quality in downwind states such as Delaware.
The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule is designed to curb smog and soot pollution from power plants and industrial sources in 27 states.
Sen. Tom Carper, who chairs a subcommittee overseeing the Clean Air Act, said he and others from downwind states will speak out on the Senate floor against the plan to block the rule.
"This is basically a fairness and equity issue," the Delaware Democrat said Monday. "Is it fair that some states should enjoy lower electricity costs, lower health care costs [while] at the very time by doing so, they're increasing our electricity costs and increasing our health care costs? It's not right."
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is bypassing the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and forcing a floor vote on his measure under a fast-track procedure.
Paul's proposal will require a 51-vote majority to pass rather than the 60 votes required to overcome filibusters in the Senate. The House, which already has passed legislation to delay the EPA rule, also would have to pass the resolution.
The measure isn't expected to pass the Senate. If it did, President Barack Obama probably would veto it.
Most of Delaware's air pollution comes from out of state. The state wasn't among 27 required to improve air quality under the cross-state rule because pollution originating there doesn't significantly damage air quality in other states, the EPA said.
Under Paul's resolution, Delaware and other downwind states would have to invest in additional emissions controls to offset the effects of pollution from upwind states and meet air-quality standards, Collin O'Mara, state natural resources secretary, said Monday.
"We could shut down every single source and still not be close to attainment, and at the same time we're paying the higher price for energy and the higher cost for health care," he said.
The pollution rule will cost electric utilities $1.4 billion in 2012 and $800 million in 2014 while bringing $110 billion to $280 billion in health benefits in 2014, said Ali Mirzakhalili, director of DNREC's division of air quality.
"The question is, why wouldn't you do this?" Mirzakhalili said.
Carper has tried for years to curb power-plant emissions. He said his efforts broke down last fall because some in the utility industry gambled on 2010 election results rather than work toward a legislative fix. He said the time for a legislative fix "has come and probably gone" and EPA's rule is "not a bad second choice."
"We've waited long enough," he said.