By Valerie Volcovici
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Nearly half of the U.S. Senate supports a resolution to challenge the Obama administration's regulation cutting carbon emissions from power plants, the core of the United States' broader climate change strategy, sponsors of the measure said on Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, backed a resolution introduced on Monday night by Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito and Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp disapproving of the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan. Backers of the resolution said 49 senators in the 100-member chamber support it.
Forty-seven senators backed a separate McConnell-sponsored resolution to challenge a related EPA rule that sets emissions standards for the construction of new coal-fired power plants.
Even if passed, the measures would face a veto by President Barack Obama, who has vowed to defend the EPA rules.
The resolutions filed under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) come as over 20 legal petitions were filed since Friday in a federal court seeking to block the EPA regulations by an array of industry groups and 26 states.
"It is time to send a clear signal that across-the-board regulations from Washington are not the best way forward,” Capito said, adding that the regulation stifles economic growth and leads to job cuts in coal-dependent regions.
A CRA lets Congress express its opposition to executive actions. It requires a simple majority, and if enacted would nullify the regulations.
Obama's Clean Power Plan, which puts the country on course to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, is key for the United States to meet the greenhouse gas emission reduction target it pledged to the United Nations.
Next month more than 190 countries will meet in Paris to negotiate a final climate change agreement. The White House has been keen to play a leadership role in the talks.
"This is a waste of the Senate's time because it will run into that brick wall," said Melinda Pierce of the Sierra Club, referring to Obama's likely veto.
But Pierce said McConnell is likely to hold a vote on the CRAs before the Thanksgiving holiday, just days before the Paris talks begin.
The Obama administration has said it does not plan to submit a final agreement reached in Paris to Congress for approval.
McConnell and other opponents of climate change regulations in Congress have tried to assert their influence on a Paris outcome by sowing doubt among other countries about the United States' ability to achieve its own targets.
(Editing by Matthew Lewis)