A new front has opened up in the fight over fossil fuels.
A bipartisan pair of lawmakers is hoping to pit one federal agency against another in a bid to soften the blow of upcoming regulations to curb air pollution from power plants. And if they get their way, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — the executive-branch agency with oversight of the nation's electric grid — could act as a check on the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Rob Portman of Ohio voiced concerns over the EPA's power-plant rule at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Tuesday to consider Norman Bay's nomination to head FERC. The senators expressed fears that the regulations could disrupt the supply of electricity by causing coal plants to shut down. And they asked Bay — the current director of the agency's Office of Enforcement — if he would stand up to the EPA if the rules threaten grid reliability.
Bay said yes. "I very much respect the work of the EPA. They have an important job to do," he said during the hearing. "But FERC has an important job to do as well, and for FERC, two of our key responsibilities are reliability and ensuring that rates are just and reasonable."