NASHVILLE - U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., joined with Senate Democrats today and voted down a measure seeking to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency's new limits on mercury, arsenic and other toxic pollutants released by coal-powered power plants.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., failed on a 53-46 vote.
The new rule "will hasten the day Memphis, Chattanooga and Knoxville are not three of the top five worst asthma cities in America and Nashville is not competing to be in the top 10," Alexander said. "We know that every Tennessee metro area is struggling to stay within legal clean air standards."
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., a former Chattanooga mayor, voted to overturn the EPA rule.
Corker issued a statement saying he did so because he believes utilities need more time to comply with the new clean air regulations and avoid higher energy prices and less reliable power.
"I strongly support efforts to clean the air and control mercury emissions, but as local utilities and industrial users told me last fall at an energy roundtable in Tennessee, regulations should be implemented in a reasonable timeframe that allows users to plan for infrastructure upgrades over time so they can meet the new requirements without needlessly increasing energy prices," Corker said.
The coal industry and a number of conservative groups oppose the rule.