Louisiana Legislature opposes EPA Clean Air regulations _lowres

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- Louisiana Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, at the mic, and Gerald Long, R-Winnfield, debate a resolution putting the Legislature on record as opposing proposed federal clean air rules.

A resolution to put the Louisiana Legislature on record as opposing proposed federal air pollution standards bogged down in an argument about global warming before ultimately passing.

Usually resolutions are approved without much discussion. And debate over House Concurrent Resolution 29 started the routine way with the noise level of conversations around the Senate chamber drowning out the speaker at the podium. But the noise of partisan bickering in Washington, D.C. over the issue soon was duplicated in Baton Rouge.

After some debate, the Senate, eventually approved the resolution, which is just an expression of the legislature and carries no binding legal weight, on a vote of 31 to 7. The House approved the resolution 71 to 17 on May 26.

HCR29, sponsored by Republican Rep. Joe Harrison, of Gray, states the Louisiana Legislature believes that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its legal authority in writing proposed rules under the Clean Air Act that would limit carbon dioxide emissions and asked the federal government not to implement the proposed guidelines.

“Let’s be clear what we’re doing here,” said Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans. The resolution seeks to stop federal regulations aimed at combating global warming, which is expected to raise sea levels and flood coastal areas.

Republican Sen. Mike Walsworth, of West Monroe, countered that the federal guidelines, if adopted, would end up increasing the monthly electricity rates for thousands of rural customers of cooperatives, which by and large buy their electricity from coal-fired generating plants. “The president could have done this a different way,” he said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recommended stricter standards for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, which are highest in coal-fired power plants. The EPA proposal has been ground zero in the highly partisan fisticuffs over the extent of global warming and whether it exists at all.

The Louisiana Public Service Commission – three of the five elected members are Republican – has estimated that the EPA proposal would cost Louisiana ratepayers $3.96 billion to $5.7 billion, the resolution points out.

But for Democratic Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, of Baton Rouge, not adopting the new EPA rules would cause monthly electric bills to go up in the larger cities, which are under tighter EPA oversight for clean air standards and are serviced by the large privately owned utility companies, like Entergy Corp, that make most of their electricity with cleaner fuels, like natural gas and nuclear rods.