Obama admin defends climate rule as ‘eminently reasonable’

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Lawyers for the Obama administration defended its controversial landmark climate rule for power plants in court Monday as a completely reasonable interpretation of the authority Congress gave it.

The Justice Department is trying to answer complaints in a federal appeals court that accuse the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of violating the plain letter of the Clean Air Act last year when it made final the carbon dioxide regulation for power plants.

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In their opening volley last month against President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, dozens of states and energy companies, led by West Virginia, told the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that the rule is a “breathtaking expansion” of the power Congress gave the EPA.

But the Obama administration shot back.

“The rule reflects the eminently reasonable exercise of EPA’s recognized statutory authority,” the attorneys wrote to the court in their reply brief.

“It will achieve cost-effective [carbon dioxide] 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,” they said, asking the court to deny the opponents’ attempt to have it overturned.

The administration attorneys pointed to the Clean Air Act’s requirement that it base regulations on the “best system of emissions reduction,” and said its system for calculating states’ individual emissions goals fits squarely in that framework.

The appeals court is the first step in the opponents’ drive to overturn the Clean Power Plan, which seeks a 32 percent cut in the power industry’s carbon output by 2030.

The court is planning to hear oral arguments in the litigation in June, and could rule on the case in the fall.

The regulation is on hold, thanks to the Supreme Court’s action last month to halt it while the litigation proceeds. The circuit court refused to issue such a hold in December, leading the opponents to appeal to the high court.