Republicans may have found an unconventional argument against tightening regulations on coal-fired power plants: think about the manatees.
The connection between manatees’ well-being and power plants was raised at a hearing last week.
It turns out, in Florida, the endangered manatee population enjoys the warm water that is discharged from the state's Big Bend Power Station; in fact, a manatee viewing center has been created near the plant. But the power station may have to partially close over new regulations, which could mean no more warm water for the treasured sea cows.
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources, pressed the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service on the issue at last week's hearing. Now, his committee plans to send letters to both the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Environmental Protection Agency, according to committee spokesman Parish Braden.
The letters will say that if such a change negatively affects an endangered species -- like the manatees -- there should be further investigation, under the Endangered Species Act.
“Our goal is to determine if the administration is selectively applying the law. If this is the case, we will have even more questions,” Braden said in an email to FoxNews.com.
The Big Bend Power Station is not the only one with a manatee dilemma -- other plants in Florida, Georgia, and other coastal regions reportedly may have the same problem.
The station, situated on Tampa Bay, houses four coal-powered units. A new carbon emissions rule could result in at least one of the units closing by 2025, McClatchy reported.
The EPA is supposed to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service regarding any plans that could hurt endangered species, such as the manatee. At last week's hearing, when Bishop asked about the impact on the animals, McClatchy reported, Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe acknowledged his agency had not done so.
He agreed there would be an impact on the manatees -- and an aide later clarified to McClatchy that Ashe thinks there should be a consultation on the specific power plant, not the EPA's "overall carbon emissions rule."
FoxNews.com's Jean Lee contributed to this report.