A House Republican who was carving out a reputation as one of the greener members of his party just got a little less green.
Rep. Chris Gibson, leader of a small GOP band urging more action on global warming, joined almost every other Republican lawmaker Tuesday in voting to kill the Environmental Protection Agency's sweeping carbon-emissions rules for the nation’s power plants.
The vote was a surprise because Gibson in recent years voted against other GOP bills that would kill the regulations, which are a centerpiece of President Obama’s climate agenda.
But on Tuesday, he joined 237 other Republicans in support of a resolution that would halt the rules, which aim to cut carbon emissions from the nation’s existing fleet of power plants by 32 percent over the next 15 years.
Gibson did join Democrats in opposing a separate resolution that would have blocked a related EPA rule that sets carbon-emissions limits for newly built plants, but that rule is less consequential than the rule to slash pollution from the current fleet. Both measures passed.
The upstate New York Republican had won praise from some green groups for his votes earlier this year and in 2014 in defense of EPA’s rules.
Activists also cheered a resolution he introduced in September with 10 Republican cosponsors (an 11th signed on last month) that warns of the threats from climate change and calls for “economically viable and broadly supported private and public solutions.”
The League of Conservation Voters ran a digital ad campaign last summer thanking Gibson for voting against one of the GOP bills to derail the EPA power plant rules. EDF Action, which is the political arm of the Environmental Defense Fund, supported Gibson’s 2014 reelection campaign with a $234,000 TV ad buy.
The bills to kill EPA’s rules that cleared the House on Tuesday have also passed the Senate, but face certain vetoes. They’re part of an effort by GOP leaders to undercut the Obama administration’s negotiating position at the Paris climate talks by trying show that his emissions-cutting pledges are vulnerable back home.
Yesterday, Gibson and nine others who cosponsored his climate-change resolution voted in favor of thwarting EPA’s rules to cut emissions from existing power plants. Two—Robert Dold and Richard Hanna—voted with almost every Democrat in favor of upholding the rules.
The vote was a disappointment to EDF Action. “It’s unfortunate that they voted against the only plan for reducing pollution from power plants without having one of their own,” said Tony Kreindler, an official with the group. He declined to comment on Gibson specifically.
Tiernan Sittenfeld, a senior official with LCV, said the group is “perplexed” and “very disappointed” with Gibson’s vote, especially in light of his past leadership on climate change. LCV strongly supports EPA’s rule, called the Clean Power Plan, calling it a vital way to cut carbon emissions while offering states flexibility.
“Since Congressman Gibson acknowledges that climate change is real, it then begs the question of what solutions does he support?” she said.
Gibson says that a major element of EPA’s final regulation left him little choice.
It’s a wonky issue, but basically the rule requires states to create plans to slash power-plant carbon emissions within their borders. However, if states don’t craft their own plans, EPA has a version that it will require states to adopt, and that so-called “federal implementation plan” relies on cap-and-trade; that is, trading of pollution permits under an overall emissions limit. The rule also encourages states to explore carbon trading in the plans they craft on their own, but does not require it.
Gibson, however, dislikes cap-and-trade.
“While I have strongly and consistently supported the Clean Power Plan, and continue to do so, I cannot and will not support a proposal for a cap-and-trade system. Cap-and-trade is a dangerous policy fraught with the potential for significant corruption and it would hurt my constituents and our economy by raising energy costs,” he said in a statement.
“I call on the Environmental Protection Agency to immediately recall the proposed rule for a federal plan and to reissue it without a cap-and-trade system as its foundation. I hope the EPA will listen to the many votes over the years in Congress opposing cap-and-trade and rescind that proposed rule,” he said.
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