Two dozen states sue Obama over coal plant emissions rule

A coalition of 24 states and a coal mining company filed lawsuits Friday to challenge the most significant piece of President Obama’s environmental agenda, his signature climate change rule for power plants.

The litigants accuse the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of going far beyond the authority Congress granted to it by ordering a significant transformation of states’ electricity generation, moving away from fossil fuels like coal and toward lower-carbon sources like wind and solar power.

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They are asking the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to overturn the rule. They also want the court to immediately stop its implementation while it works its way through the courts.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R), who is leading the legal fight against the plan, called it “the single most onerous and illegal regulations that we’ve seen coming out of D.C. in a long time.”

On a call with reporters, Morrisey repeated many of the long-held arguments against the rule: that it will hurt his state’s coal mining industry, raise power rates for consumers and risk electricity reliability.

“EPA’s rule is flatly illegal and one of the most aggressive executive branch power grabs we’ve seen in a long time,” he said. “The EPA cannot do what it intends to do legally.”

Morrissey said he wants the court to rule on a stay “as soon as possible.” He noted it took a federal judge about a month to delay an EPA water regulation earlier this month, and said that could be a “guidepost” for how long litigation might take. 

The climate rule, dubbed the Clean Power Plan, seeks a 32 percent cut in the power sector’s carbon emissions by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. Each state has been assigned a specific emissions goal based on its unique circumstances, with flexibility in how the goals are met.

West Virginia and Murray led a similar coalition in two lawsuits earlier this year against the regulation that were deemed premature by the D.C. court. The first was before the final rule had been announced, and the second was in August, before it was published in the Federal Register.

The Obama administration has been steadfast in its defense of the legal backing of the rule.

The EPA said its rule is legal and will pass all court challenges.

“The Clean Power Plan has strong scientific and legal foundations, provides states with broad flexibilities to design and implement plans, and is clearly within EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyLawmakers rally to keep Pruitt from transparently restricting science EPA says it abandoned plan for office in Pruitt’s hometown Overnight Energy: Pruitt blames staff for controversies | Ex-Obama official to head new Harvard climate center | Electric vehicles on road expected to triple MORE said in a Friday statement.

“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,” she said.

The West Virginia and Murray lawsuits came the day the rule was published in the Federal Register, the first day court challenges can legally be filed.

The states joining West Virginia are Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Arizona and North Carolina.

The attorneys general of 15 liberal states, along with the District of Columbia and New York City, are planning to intervene in the lawsuit to support the EPA.

Those state and city officials, led by New York State, said in August that they “fully anticipate defending the rules if they are challenged in court.” 

Friday also marks the first day lawmakers can file challenges under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to quickly overturn regulations.

Lawmakers are mobilizing quickly against the new climate change rule from President Obama, announcing they will file formal congressional challenges on Monday. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate GOP breaks record on confirming Trump picks for key court Senate Democrats block resolution supporting ICE The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s walk-back fails to stem outrage on Putin meeting MORE (R-Ky.) on Friday said he and Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinElection Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas Senate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Morrisey accuses Manchin of 'lying' to Trump, attacks ‘liberal’ record MORE (D-W.Va.) will introduce a CRA resolution to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pollution standards for new power plants. 

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Sens. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoLots of love: Charity tennis match features lawmakers teaming up across the aisle Senate takes symbolic shot at Trump tariffs America must act to ensure qualified water workforce MORE (R-W.Va.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampElection Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas Senate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Bipartisan group introduces retirement savings legislation in Senate MORE (D-N.D.) will introduce a resolution opposing the EPA’s existing power plant rule at the same time. McConnell’s office said he will schedule a vote on the resolutions shortly afterward.

“I have vowed to do all I can to fight back against this administration on behalf of the thousands of Kentucky coal miners and their families, and this CRA is another tool in that battle,” McConnell said in a statement. 

“The CRAs that we will file will allow Congress the ability to fight these anti-coal regulations.”

In the House, Rep. Ed WhitfieldWayne (Ed) Edward WhitfieldWhy Republicans took aim at an ethics watchdog What Azerbaijan wants from Israel? Overnight Energy: Green group sues Exxon over climate science MORE (R-Ky.) will introduce the resolutions.

Devin Henry contributed.

This story was last updated at 12:24 a.m.