Rockefeller: Don't put fate of an entire industry in EPA's hands

"The impact of these rules is that companies will sit on the sidelines and opportunities for innovation and job creation will be lost," he said. "Because of these new rules companies won't build that new factory. They won't build that new power plant. And so they won't employ some of the millions of Americans who are out of work. That is why I believe these regulations need to be suspended."

Rockefeller stressed that he believes climate change is an important issue, but said "the lead should come from Congress and not the EPA."

"Congress, unlike the EPA, can craft proposals that reduce greenhouse gases while simultaneously protecting our economy," he said. "Most importantly, Congress is directly accountable to the people whose lives we impact."

He also argued that EPA's approach does not take into account the differences in energy use across the states, and said plainly that coal-generated electricity "will not change anytime soon."

"The fact is, we in West Virginia know and embrace what too many others either don't understand or refuse to see, which is that our nation and countries around the world are dependent on coal," he said. "That is not something that will change when half the globe is struggling to rise out of poverty."

The bill, S. 231, is co-sponsored by Sens. Jim Webb (D-Va.), Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillSenate Dem: You can say Trump and his 'friend' Putin founded ISIS Sunday shows preview: Trump's tough week McCaskill blasts Gingrich for comparing Trump to Truman MORE (D-Mo.), Tim JohnsonTim JohnsonFormer GOP senator endorses Clinton after Orlando shooting Housing groups argue Freddie Mac's loss should spur finance reform On Wall Street, Dem shake-up puts party at crossroads MORE (D-S.D.), Joe ManchinJoe ManchinDem Senate candidate: Toomey 'playing politics' with guns Political bedfellows of 2016 may be strange but not unheard of Dem senator's daughter could face Congress over EpiPen price hike MORE (D-W.Va.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.).

More in Senate

Reid to Trump: 'Put up or shut up' on immigration test

Read more »