14 states pen brief supporting EPA climate rule

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia are backing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a lawsuit against the administration’s landmark climate rule on pollution from power plants.

In an amicus brief filed on Monday evening, the states argue the lawsuit against the EPA by coal giant Murray Energy is “premature and meritless.”

Murrary Energy sued the EPA in June, calling the president’s climate rule “illegal, irrational, and radical.” Since, nine states, including Nebraska, Ohio, Alaska, Kentucky, and West Virginia, have joined the company in its lawsuit.

The 14 EPA-friendly states, including, New York, California, Delaware, New Mexico, Oregon, and Rhode Island, however, say they “support the EPA’s authority to complete its ongoing rule making to limit carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fueled power plants, the largest source of those emissions.”

The brief filed on Monday also argues that the 14 states and D.C. have a “compelling” interest in mitigating climate change impacts on residents.

Among their primary concerns are “increased heat-related deaths, damaged coastal areas, and more severe weather events,” according to the brief filed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The states argue that Murray has the opportunity to participate in the EPA’s comment process and can request judicial review of the rule once it is finalized.

Additionally, the brief claims Murray has “failed” to show EPA’s “consideration” of the carbon pollution standards “imposes legal obligations on or otherwise injures Murray’s legal rights.”

“Murray’s flawed challenge to EPA’s pending rulemaking, if accepted, would harm the environment and the health of [the fourteen states'] residents by delaying critically needed reductions of greenhouse gases from the largest sources of that pollution. The writ should be denied,” the brief states.

Green groups also requested the court allow them to file an amicus brief of their own in defense of the EPA on Monday.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and Environmental Defense Council, along with three other environmental organizations, told the court that Murray has no legal ground to stand on.

“Murray cannot show that section 111(d) [of the Clean Air Act] unambiguously forbids EPA from regulating emissions of a dangerous but non-hazardous pollutant from an existing industrial source if EPA has regulated emissions of any hazardous pollutant from that source under section 112,” the groups write.

Murray argues the EPA cannot regulate power plants under two different sections of the Clean Air Act, and takes issue with the part of the proposal that tells states to “go beyond the fence” of the power plant to meet emissions reduction targets.

The lawsuit from Murray Energy is not the only one against the new standards. A dozen states representing much of America’s coal country also sued the agency over its carbon pollution proposal earlier this year.

The EPA’s comment period for the rule ends on Dec. 1, and the agency is working to finalize it by summer of next year.

The carbon pollution rule, which requires the nation’s fleet of existing power plants cut emissions 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels, is a key piece of the president’s climate legacy, and is crucial to international negotiations for a global accord.