U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander from Tennessee breathed new life into clean air policy Thursday, joining four Republicans in defeating a colleague's attempt to weaken EPA pollution rules.
Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, wanted to overturn a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule limiting the amount of power-plant fumes that can blow from a state into bordering states.
The Senate defeated Paul's resolution 56-41.
In a statement, Alexander, a Republican, sought to appease tea party members who support Paul, calling the EPA "a happy hunting ground" for unreasonable regulations.
"So why aren't we talking about those instead of a proposal to make it easier for dirty air to blow in our state, make us unhealthier, drive away tourists and cost us auto jobs?" he said.
Paul said his bill was meant to save jobs.
"I think we can have a clean environment and jobs," Paul said in a Senate floor debate, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. "But not if we let this administration continue to pass job-killing regulations."
Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine, joined Alexander in rejecting Paul's resolution.
As promised, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., voted with Paul, splitting Tennessee's voices in the Senate. A staunch EPA opponent, Corker recently held an energy roundtable in which Chattanooga power officials, including TVA CEO Tom Kilgore, complained about the cost of compliance with EPA rules.
Paul's resolution had little chance of going anywhere, even if the Senate and House had passed it. President Barack Obama foreshadowed a veto when he issued a statement warning that Paul's resolution would dirty the air and worsen public health, the Courier-Journal reported.
Earlier this week, Alexander introduced a bill that would make the EPA rule a law, costing TVA ratepayers "between $1 and $2 a month" extra on their power bills, his office said. It's unclear whether Alexander's measure has any traction since it's in early legislative stages.