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Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

24 States Petition to Block New Rules for Coal

(CN) - Twenty-four states, including two led by Democrats, sued the Environmental Protection Agency over a new rule that requires them to shift from coal to natural gas and renewable energy by 2030.

The states' petition for review was one of at least 17 such actions filed with the D.C. Circuit after the Obama administration published the final version of the rule limiting greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants in the Federal Register.

In its challenge, the coalition of states, most of which are led by Republican governors and located in coal-producing regions, argue the rule, known as the "The Clean Power Plan," clearly exceeds the EPA's authority to regulate utilities, and would have a "devastating" economic impact on them.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey who is leading the pack, has described the rule as "a major threat to anyone who powers up a computer, or turns on a light."

He blames the regulation for a dramatic downturn in the mining industry in his state, a downturn that saw Patriot Coal, a major coal producer in the state, law off 2,000 workers last month.

He said if the states can prevail in defeating the new rule, which pertains primarily to newly-constructed plants, they'll also effectively beat back a requirement that existing coal-fired plants be retrofitted to reduce the amount of pollution they produce.

"That's why so many states have joined us," he said.

Many of the states that joined the Oct. 30 petition were part of a previously unsuccessful challenge in which the D.C. Circuit refused to thwart the rule before it became official.

Like Section 111(d), which will require existing Wisconsin plants to reduce their emissions by 41 percent by 2030, the state claims this rule is cost-prohibitive.

Prior to the publication of the new rule, Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune warned that his organization will "vigorously defend the Clean Power Plan against any polluter sponsored attacks that aim to stifle America's transition to a clean energy economy and protect vulnerable communities from climate disruption."

"We expect polluters and their allies to throw everything they've got at the Clean Power Plan, and we expect them to fail," Brune said in a statement. "The Clean Power Plan is based on a law passed by Congress, upheld by the Supreme Court, and demanded by the American people.

"The Clean Power Plan will help us move toward a new era of clean, affordable energy that protects the health of our communities, grows our economy, and signals to the rest of the world, ahead of international negotiations in Paris later this year, that the U.S. is serious about combating the climate crisis," he said.

The negotiations Brune referenced will take place at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, which will be held in Paris November 30 through December 11.

In a statement, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy defended the agency's action, arguing that rule "has strong scientific and legal foundations, [and] provides states with broad flexibilities to design and implement plans.

"We are confident we will again prevail against these challenges and will be able to work with states to successfully implement these first-ever national standards to limit carbon pollution, the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States."

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