RICHMOND, Va. (Feb. 22, 2016) – A Virginia bill that would take a small, but important, first step in setting the foundation to reject federal some EPA rules and regulations in practice passed out of the state House today.

Senate Bill 21 (SB21) would require the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to prepare an extensive report highlighting the impact of any plan to comply with EPA “Clean Power Plan” emission requirements, and to get approval from the General Assembly before implementing it. The legislation includes a long list of factors the report must address, including the impact on the state power grid, the effect on consumer prices and the cost of adopting the measures.

The state legislature would then be required to vote whether or not to approve the plan based on the information in the report. Under the proposed law, implementation of any measures to comply with EPA Clean Power Plan mandates would be subject to legislative approval.

Earlier this month, the full Senate passed it by a vote of 21-19. Today, the House passed it by a vote of 64-34, sending the bill to the Governor’s desk.

While passage of either bill does not guarantee the state would reject compliance with these EPA mandates, it sets the foundation to do so. It also brings the entire process into the public spotlight, allowing Virginia residents to have input into the process.

As it currently stands, the DEQ and the EPA work behind the scenes to adopt such plans without any public or legislative input at all. The DEQ acts, in practice, like a part of the federal government. SB21 reasserts some state authority over the DEQ and the entire process.

With the federal courts putting a “pause” on federal implementation of some of the Clean Power Plan, SB21 represents a good first step toward fully blocking unconstitutional EPA Clean Power Plan mandates. Passage would begin to place the process back in the hands of the state, thus diminishing the power of the federal agency. The legislation also sets the stage for more aggressive action such as refusing cooperation with the enforcement of EPA rules and regulations.

Mike Maharrey

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