Clean Power Plan supporters — including environmental and health organizations, states, power companies and clean energy trade groups — yesterday filed briefs asking the DC Circuit court to uphold the power plant emissions regulation.
On June 2 the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit will hear oral arguments on the carbon pollution limits.
In February, the US Supreme Court temporarily halted the implementation of the Clean Power Plan, grating a “stay” while the appeals court considers a legal challenge to the rule.
The Clean Power Plan requires existing coal-burning power plants to cut carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. Since the EPA published the rule in late October, more than 20 energy companies, other businesses and industry organizations, along with 27 states filed lawsuits to overturn it.
On Monday, the EPA filed its first defense against Clean Power Plan opponents. The states and energy companies that want the court to overturn the rule have argued that it oversteps the EPA’s authority under the Clean Power Plan. They also argue the plan will be too costly to implement and will hurt big coal states’ economies.
In its brief, the EPA countered that it is well within its authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate fossil-fuel power plant emissions, which is called “the nation’s most urgent environmental threat.”
“The [Clean Power Plan] reflects the eminently reasonable exercise of EPA’s recognized statutory authority. It will achieve cost-effective CO2 reductions from an industry that has already demonstrated its ability to comply with robust pollution-control standards through the same measures and flexible approaches. The Rule fulfills both the letter and spirit of Congress’s direction in the Act, and the petitions should be denied.”
Yesterday, a coalition of environmental and health organizations, including Earthjustice, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club, filed a brief in support of the Clean Power Plan. The brief argues that the agency does have authority under the Clean Air Act to cut power plant carbon pollution and says the rule builds on energy-sector trends already underway.
Talking with reporters about the filing, Joanne Spalding, chief climate counsel for the Sierra Club, said while installed solar and wind capacity are on the rise, the coal sector has been declining since 2009. “More than 230 coal plants and 99 gigawatts of coal have been retired as our nation transitions to a clean-power economy,” Spalding said. “The EPA’s Clean Power Plan is not causing the decline of the coal industry. It is merely acknowledging that states and utilities are choosing to move away from coal electricity generation and choosing to move toward cleaner sources of electricity generation.”
Other parties supporting the EPA – a coalition of 18 States and seven cities and counties, a large group of power companies, and three advanced energy trade associations representing more than 3,000 companies and organizations in the advanced energy sector — also submitted their briefs in defense of the Clean Power Plan on Tuesday.
The environmental groups’ brief also addresses opponents’ arguments that EPA should not have created the Clean Power Plan under section 111d of the Clean Air Act because it already regulates other types of pollutants under a different section of the same law: “This bizarre proposition is like exempting restaurants from food handling requirements because they are subject to the fire code. The Clean Air Act does not work that way.”
Other Clean Power Plan supporters are expected to file “friend of the court” briefs on April 1.
Meanwhile 25 states are moving forward with their own clean energy plans to submit to the EPA under the Clean Power Plan, despite the Supreme Court’s stay.
Don’t miss our Environmental Leader 2016 Conference in June.