McConnell tells states to stop planning for EPA climate rule

McConnell tells states to stop planning for EPA climate rule
© Haiyun Jiang

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellOvernight Healthcare: CBO score imperils ObamaCare repeal | Breaking down the numbers | WH hits back over score | Trump phones holdouts | Dems plan floor protest Lobbying fight erupts over coal country bill New CBO analysis imperils GOP ObamaCare repeal MORE (R-Ky.) is telling state officials to stop their work toward complying with the Obama administration’s climate change rule for power plants.

In a Monday letter to all of the country’s governors through the National Governors Association, McConnell said the Supreme Court’s decision last month to halt the Clean Power Plan validated his earlier advice for states to ignore the regulation and not try to comply.

ADVERTISEMENT
McConnell told the governors that he’s always felt the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) carbon limits violate the law.

“This is precisely why I suggested a ‘wait-and-see’ approach with respect to the CPP last year,” he wrote. “Given the Supreme Court’s recent stay of the CPP and the painful lessons of [the mercury and air toxics standards], ‘wait-and-see’ remains the most responsible approach today,” he said, referring to an earlier EPA rule that the high court found to be illegal.

McConnell has been one of the loudest voices advocating for states to resist complying, which he says is one of the most effective ways to fight the rule.

While few states were open to the idea, numerous states’ leaders decided after the Supreme Court’s stay that they would stop planning for compliance, reasoning that the regulation is much less likely to survive the litigation process on its merits.

But the Obama administration has pushed back, encouraging states to keep up their efforts to comply and arguing that they’ll be thankful when the courts side with the EPA.

“States, really try to continue to seize the opportunities,” EPA chief Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyTrump’s budget prioritizes polluters over people Trump pulls US out of Paris deal: What it would mean Regulations, farmers and the law MORE said after the decision. “We know that the market is moving in this direction; we all want to grab it for all of its benefits and squeeze that dry; and I don’t think that this decision changes any of our emphasis and enthusiasm to work on these issues together.”

The EPA has said it would comply with the court’s order, but it would also help any state that wants to keep working toward the carbon cuts the rule tries to mandate.

In response to the letter, EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison reiterated the administration’s position that the rule will be upheld on its merits.

“While the stay is in place, EPA will not take any action to implement or enforce it,” she said. “However, the stay does not stop states, tribes, or utilities from continuing to act on climate. In fact, many have already said they’re going to keep moving forward.”

McConnell said resistance is helpful in the effort to overturn the rule.

“Declining to go along with the administration’s legally dubious plan will help provide the other two branches of government time to address many of the unanswered questions about this plan without putting your state at risk in the interim,” he wrote to the governors.

“I hope that each of you will consider taking advantage of the relief granted by the Supreme Court and keep in mind that many of us in Congress stand ready to help you as you fight for the best interests of your states.”

Attorneys for the Obama administration and the states, businesses and others opposing the rule are in the process of filing briefs with the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which will hear arguments in the case against the regulation in June. After the court's decision, it would likely be appealed to the Supreme Court for arguments on the merits.

The attorneys general of West Virginia and Texas, along with energy industry interests fighting the rule, are also advising states to ignore it during litigation.