RICHMOND, Va. (Jan. 25, 2017) – A Virginia House bill that would set the foundation to reject the EPA’s “Clean Power Plan” in practice cleared its first hurdle yesterday, passing an important committee.
Del. Israel O’Quinn (R-Bristol) introduced House Bill 1974 (HB1974) on Jan. 10. The legislation would prohibit the Department of Environmental Quality from unilaterally implementing EPA Clean Power Plan emission requirements.
HB1974 passed the Commerce and Labor Committee by a 14-6 vote.
Under the proposed law, the Department of Environmental Protection would be required to consider a number of specific factors when developing any state plan to comply with EPA emission standards. Before submitting any plan to the federal agency, the DEQ would have to submit it, along with a detailed report, to the state legislature for approval.
Not later than 15 days following the completion of DEQ’s development of a state plan, DEQ shall transmit to the Senate and the House of Delegates a copy of the state plan and the accompanying report developed in accordance with subdivision a of §2. Upon receiving the state plan and accompanying report, the Senate and the House of Delegates shall vote on a resolution to approve the state plan after sufficient time has been provided to assess the state plan and accompanying report. The resolution shall be deemed approved by the Senate and the House of Delegates if each chamber casts a majority of votes in favor of the resolution.
DEQ shall not submit to the EPA any state plan until both the Senate and the House of Delegates have adopted resolutions that approve the state plan in accordance with this act.
While the proposed law would not guarantee the state would reject compliance with 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 it.
As it currently stands, the Department of Environmental Quality and the EPA can work behind the scenes to adopt such plans without any public or legislative input at all. The department acts, in practice, like a part of the federal government. HB1974 reasserts some state authority over the Department of Environmental Protection and the entire process.
With the federal courts putting a “pause” on federal implementation of some of the Clean Power Plan, HB1974 would take 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.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed a similar measure last year and misrepresented the Virginia state constitution in the process.
HB1974 will now move to the full House for further consideration.