The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation Thursday to block planned limits on air pollution from industrial boilers and delay replacement standards.

The House voted 275-142 in favor of the measure, one in a series of bills Republicans are pushing to curtail Environmental Protection Agency regulations they say are harming the economy.

“We simply believe that this legislation is a common-sense approach to protect jobs, revisit the rules and give industries time to comply,” Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., said before the vote.

President Obama’s aides have said they would recommend that he veto the bill if it reaches his desk.

Maine’s Democratic representatives split on the measure. Rep. Chellie Pingree voted against the bill, while Rep. Mike Michaud was one of the 41 House Democrats who backed the measure.

“As the EPA has acknowledged, these rules were finalized with serious flaws because they were forced to meet a strict court-ordered deadline,” Michaud said. “This bill will provide the EPA the time it requested to get the rules right. It will also ensure that businesses have time to comply with the rule and plan for capital expenses.”

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is a co-author of a similar bill delaying EPA boiler emissions regulations that is pending in the Senate.

The EPA is preparing to issue a set of rules for boilers aimed at cutting emissions of toxics such as mercury and soot. The estimated cost of the regulation is $3 billion, according to the White House.

The EPA’s efforts to cut pollution from boilers have been opposed by paper processors such as International Paper and Weyerhaeuser, as well as refiners, manufacturers and some universities and hospitals. The legislation to block the rules is backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest business lobbying group, and the American Petroleum Institute, whose members include Conoco-Phillips and Exxon Mobil.

The EPA issued boiler standards in February under court order, then pledged to reconsider them following criticism by business groups. The revised EPA rules are scheduled to be released before the end of this month and take effect in April.

A representative of boiler makers such as Babcock & Wilcox and Cleaver-Brooks criticized Congress for stepping ahead of the regulators.

“What the House is saying is that my industry doesn’t have the know-how or talent to do the job,” W. Randall Rawson, president of the American Boiler Manufacturers Association in Vienna, Va., said in an interview.

After 10 years of delay, new EPA standards would spur sales in the boiler industry, he said.
Under the legislation, the EPA would have 15 months to rework the rules, and companies would have an additional five years to comply. The Clean Air Act gives the industry a three-year compliance deadline.

Democrats said the House measure would squander the potential for years of health benefits.

“We do not have to make the false choice between a healthy economy and healthy environment,” Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., said in debate before the vote. “The consequence of acting on the false premise would be catastrophic for health.”

MaineToday Media Washington Bureau Chief Jonathan Riskind contributed to this report.