Wisconsin

Rep. Petri (R-WI) Voted Twice in Favor of “Obama’s War on Coal”

Policy

The Wisconsin congressional district represented by Rep. Tom Petri (R) stands to lose nearly 2,000 jobs because of the Obama Administration’s “War on Coal,” but Petri has twice voted to let some of those more controversial – and burdensome – regulations stand.

A nationwide analysis by the Heritage Foundation concludes that Wisconsin will lose an estimated 11,702 jobs thanks to Obama environmental regulations. The sixth district alone will lose more jobs than any other congressional district in the country the study concludes.

In 2011, a bi-partisan majority in the U.S. House voted in favor of an amendment to suspend the Environmental Protection Agency’s Cross State Air Pollution Rule, an Obama-era regulation opposed by power companies, manufacturers and some states. The rule required only some states to reduce certain emissions, and let other states escape similar scrutiny because of their geographic location.

Petri was the only Republican from Wisconsin to vote against suspending the rule. Voting with Petri was the state’s entire Democrat congressional delegation.

In Wisconsin, the EPA’s cross state air pollution rule (CSAPR) was met with stiff opposition from Wisconsin Manufactures and Commerce, the state’s leading pro-business coalition. “The rule, which takes effect in January of 2012, treats Wisconsin utilities unfairly by requiring disproportionately deeper reductions than those required in many other states,” WMC declared in a press statement announcing they had filed a lawsuit against the rule in federal court.

A federal appeals court ended up striking down the rule in August of 2012. One attorney who represented power plants told the Washington Post at the time the “EPA can’t force states to do more than their fair share and can’t force ‘one size fits all’ federal programs without allowing states to craft their own solution.”

“The court also rejected the EPA’s ‘absurd’ and ‘unreasonable’ attempt to force implementation plans on the states before the states were given a reasonable opportunity to implement their own,” noted a Heritage Foundation expert shortly after the court issued its decision.

The amendment Petri voted against would have suspended the rule sooner than the court case did.

In 2012, Petri was the only GOP Congressman from Wisconsin to vote against a bi-partisan measure to allow the states – and not the federal government – to regulate the disposition of coal ash. Coal ash is what is left after power plants and other coal burners consume coal in their furnaces.

Petri recently claimed that he relies on the principle of federalism when making decisions about how to vote on legislative proposals. “What I support is the conservative principle of federalism. . . . I don’t think the federal government should be telling states what works and what doesn’t,” the 35-year incumbent Congressman wrote about another part of his voting record.

But by casting a no vote on the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act, Petri voted against allowing states to regulate coal ash. That counts as a vote against federalism since, according to the Heritage Foundation’s Nicolas Loris, “States would be empowered to create their own permitting program in a way that works for them.”

Collectively, the various regulatory efforts to crack down on coal-fired power plants and certain forms of electrical generation have been termed the Obama Administration’s “War on Coal.”

In a story about the impact of Obama environmental regulations, the Wisconsin Reporter quoted Petri lamenting the impact the regulations have on jobs in his district. Petri said:

“I have opposed these proposed regulations from EPA which would have a devastating impact here in the Sixth District and throughout Wisconsin. Especially in recent years, the EPA has tried again and again to push onerous regulations without consideration or care for the economic and personal losses that would come with them. I don’t think anyone would agree that losing nearly 2,000 jobs in our area alone is a cost worth bearing.”

Whatever Petri says now doesn’t square with his voting record on at least two occasions. When given the chance to join his Republican colleagues from Wisconsin, including Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner and Rep. Paul Ryan, Petri instead joined a majority of House Democrats led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D) in voting against holding the Obama EPA accountable.

The 2,000 jobs that Petri is now concerned about were apparently not part of his calculations when he voted to let the EPA impose burdensome regulations on Wisconsin and other states with large manufacturing sectors.

Petri’s voting record – and how it differs from his rhetoric – will likely become more important in the weeks to come, as Petri faces a primary challenge from state Sen. Glen Grothman. Already, some of Petri’s support appears to be evaporating with Gov. Scott Walker announcing last week he will not endorse the aging Congressman.

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