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GOP task force readies regulatory agenda for energy sector

AGOP task force in the U.S. House of Representatives aimed at easing regulatoryburdens for the energy sector and other industries expects to roll outrecommendations for its agenda ahead of the Republican National Convention inJuly.

HouseSpeaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., formed six committee-led task forces in February todevelop a "bold, pro-growth agenda" for the country. One of the taskforces is charged with "reducing regulatory burdens" and includesHouse Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., as well asthe heads of the House Natural Resources Committee and Oversight and GovernmentReform Committee. The other task forces are focused on national security; taxreform; health care reform; poverty, opportunity and upward mobility; andrestoring constitutional authority.

"Ourtask forces continue to meet and make progress," AshLee Strong, aspokeswoman for Ryan, said in an April 7 interview. "We have always set alate spring/summer deadline and we're on track to meet that before theconvention."

Moredetails on priorities will come as "meat is added to the bones," sheadded. The regulation-focused task force met April 7 with National MiningAssociation President and CEO Hal Quinn. In a presentation, Quinn highlightedover half a dozen regulations that he said generate far more costs thanbenefits, duplicate other state and federal rules or "lack any compellingpurpose and need." At the top of his list were the U.S. EPA's Mercury andAir Toxics Standards for new and existing coal- and oil-fired electricgenerating units, as well as the Obama administration's greenhouse gas rulesfor new and existing power plants.

Quinnsaid the MATS rulewill cost American consumers almost $10 billion each year but bring only $4billion to $6 billion in benefits and force the retirement of up to 60,000 MWof baseload generating capacity. He also blasted the plant greenhouse gas rule, saying noexisting coal-based power plant could meet it, and insisted that the for existingplants "will be difficult, if not impossible, to implement without furtherdegrading grid reliability and increasing the price of electricity." Otherrules on Quinn's list included the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration'sfinal rule to curb respirable coal dust and the U.S. Office of Surface MiningReclamation and Enforcement's proposed StreamProtection Rule released in July 2015.

TheNMA CEO said executive orders have been issued to make agencies review existingregulations and repeal outdated or inefficient rules but noted that agenciesare not legally bound by those orders. He urged lawmakers to codify theexecutive orders and praised a recently finalized rule in Canada requiring anyagency to offset the burdens of new or amended regulations by eliminating anexisting regulation of equal cost.

Despitetheir efforts, congressional Republicans have repeatedly failed to roll backenvironmental regulations for the energy sector. President Barack Obama hasvetoed passed by both theHouse and U.S. Senate to undo the Clean Power Plan as well as the EPA and U.S.Army Corps of Engineers' Clean Water Rule. GOP lawmakers have received at leastsome temporary relief from the courts, as the Clean Power Plan and Clean WaterRule both are on hold pending the resolution of lawsuits against those rules.

Still,the new regulatory task force is "valuable as part of a much broadereffort to document the cost of this administration's regulations," NMAspokesman Luke Popovich said. "And, equally importantly, to document itsfailure to transform words into action, to actually make good on its promisesto the business community that it is cleaning out its 'Augean Stables' filledwith rules that no longer serve a public purpose."