EPA cites Paris talks in defending climate rule

Blocking the Obama administration’s climate change rule for power plants would hurt the ongoing climate talks in Paris, federal attorneys argued to an appeals court.

Justice Department attorneys representing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urged the judges not to put a temporary block on the carbon dioxide rule, saying it significantly helps the negotiations toward a global accord on fighting climate change.

“By demonstrating the United States’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the rule has helped to establish this country’s leadership on the international stage,” lawyers said in a late Thursday filing.

“This leadership has facilitated new emission reduction commitments, called Intentional Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), by countries representing 98% of global emissions. The successful implementation of the Clean Power Plan will enable our nation to continue leading by example,” they said.

The lawyers also submitted a declaration from Todd Stern, the State Department’s top negotiator for the ongoing talks, saying that a halt to the rule “might prompt other countries to scale back or renege on their own domestic mitigation efforts.”

The Obama administration is trying to convince the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that it should not stop implementation of the rule, as requested by 27 states and dozens of businesses and interest groups who are suing to have it overturned.

Those opponents say the rule is illegal under the Clean Air Act, and they should be protected from its effects while litigation against it is under way.

The administration argued in the court filing that the litigants do not meet the three requirements for a stay of the regulation: likelihood of success on the merits of their case, irreparable harm without a stay and the public interest and balance of harms.

“Even though all significant regulatory deadlines are set well after review in this court would conclude, movants seek the immediate and extraordinary relief of a stay,” the attorneys wrote. “Their requests for a stay should be denied.”

The litigants asking for the stay must file a brief Tuesday responding to the EPA’s arguments. The court will consider the motion as early as the end of December.

Scott Segal, a partner at the law and lobbying firm Bracewell & Giuliani who represents fossil fuel companies, called Stern’s declaration “a desperate attempt to support EPA’s weak legal case that has garnered the opposition of the majority of the states.”

Furthermore, Segal argues, the Supreme Court has rejected the notion that foreign policy should be considered in questions of climate change regulation.