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States Contesting Clean-Power Plan Stumble

(CN) - Shot down by the D.C. Circuit, 24 states fighting implementation of anti-pollution federal regulations may press the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay.

Led by West Virginia, the states went to court this past October when the Environmental Protection Agency published new guidelines for power plants regarding emissions of carbon dioxide.

Dubbed the Clean Power Plan, Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act requires states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions nationwide by 32 percent by 2030, relative to 2005 levels.

Many of the states had been part of a previously unsuccessful challenge in which the D.C. Circuit refused to thwart the CPP rule before it became official, and the latest petition fared no better.

When the D.C. Circuit refused to enjoin the EPA's plan, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel issued a statement Friday afternoon saying he and the other challengers are "disappointed" but confident about the merits of the case.

"The decision announced Thursday was merely a determination as to whether the EPA should be blocked from implementing the CPP while the federal courts take up the litigation challenging the legality of the rule," Schimel said in a statement. "Even if the court had granted the stay, the litigation would still have proceeded forward. We are pleased that while the court did not grant the injunction, it did recognize that there is much at stake and agreed to expedite proceedings in the ongoing litigation. "

Schimel and the other challengers, most of which are Republican-led and Southern, are gratified that the D.C. Circuit agreed to expedite their case.

Unions and utility companies are among private organizations supporting the states.

The coalition argues that 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 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.

Morrisey said defeating the new rule, which pertains primarily to newly constructed plants, will also effectively beat back a requirement to retrofit existing coal-fired plants as a means of reducing emissions.

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

West Virginia 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."

Schimel ended his statement with hints of a state plan, the first deadline for which is September.

"There are several options to consider, and there is some, albeit limited, time for DOJ to confer with our clients, including the Public Service Commission, DNR and stakeholders, such as utility service providers, to determine the course of action which will best protect workers, job creators and the electricity rate-paying citizens of Wisconsin," he said.

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