(CN) – A coal-fired power plant in Virginia lacks standing to challenge state environmental laws that it claimed would force it out of business, the 4th Circuit ruled.
Mirant Potomac River asked the court to vacate the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of a Virginia plan to regulate industrial pollution. It took issue with certain provisions that barred power plants from complying with federal standards by trading emissions allowances with other power plants. The Clean Air Act and the Clean Air Interstate Rule allow such cap-and-trade activity.
But Mirant’s power plant must also meet the state’s emissions standards because of its geographic location in a “nonattainment area,” a region where pollution levels exceed national standards.
Virginia’s provisions limit emissions for power plants in nonattainment areas. These power plants can’t trade allowances to meet their state obligations.
Mirant claimed that the nonattainment provisions stripped it of its options for meeting federal standards. It attributed its alleged injury to the EPA’s approval of the state plan.
The Richmond, Va.-based appeals court found that the Virginia provisions do not, as Mirant claimed, interfere with its ability to trade allowances to meet its obligation.
The nonattainment provisions “do not place any restrictions on participation in the EPA trading program by any affected power plant,” Judge Duncan wrote.
“[T]here is no connection – much less one that is ‘fairly traceable – between Mirant’s claimed injury and EPA’s approval of Virginia’s (implementation plan),” the court concluded.
“To meet federal compliance obligations, any power plant can buy, sell, trade, or use allowances without restrictions,” Duncan added. “To meet state compliance obligations, no power plant located in a nonattainment area can exceed its independent state emissions cap without facing state penalties” (emphasis in original).
Mirant, therefore, failed to demonstrate a causal link between its alleged injury and the EPA’s approval of Virginia’s state implementation plan under the Clean Air Act Interstate Rule.