House votes to delay pollution rules on boilers

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 13, 2011 11:23 PM
House votes to delay pollution rules on boilers

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday to delay Environmental Protection Agency limits on pollutants from industrial boilers, its latest move to hinder air rules designed to protect public health.

The vote was 275 to 142 for the legislation. All Republicans present voted for the bill as did 41 Democrats. Republicans have a majority in the House.

"We're not saying, 'Let's walk away and not protect the American people,'" said Representative Ed Whitfield, a Republican from Kentucky. "We're simply saying, 'Let's hold back for just a moment, let's go back and revisit this rule.'"

House Republicans and the business community have launched a campaign to delay the EPA's raft of air pollution rules on everything from mercury to greenhouse gases, saying they destroy jobs and add costs to companies struggling to recover.

The extent to which Republican voters support the delay of EPA air pollution rules, however, may be faltering. A survey released on Wednesday by Democratic and Republican pollsters suggested the majority of Republican voters do not want the EPA rules stopped or delayed.

Lisa Jackson, the EPA administrator, has said the rules will create jobs in pollution control technology and will save billions of dollars more in public healthcare bills than they will cost heavy industry.

The EPA issued the boiler standards under court order earlier this year. It is scheduled to issue revised rules on boilers before the end of October that would take effect in April.

The bill, which would push back the rules for 15 months and give polluters another five years to comply, faces a difficult fight in the Democratic-led Senate. Additionally, President Barack Obama would veto the bill, the White House has said.

Industry groups celebrated the bill's passage. "Enactment into law will give EPA time to get the rules right," said Cal Dooley, the president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council.

Environmentalists and health advocates were unhappy with the vote.

"This decision ignores the severe health consequences for all Americans," said Charles Connor, president and CEO of the American Lung Association.

The House is next expected to pass a bill to block the EPA from regulating the disposal of ash left over from the burning of coal. Environmentalists say the ash contaminates water supplies with heavy metals and other pollutants.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Paul Simao)