States, green groups delay lawsuit amid Obama climate rumors

States and environmental groups are delaying litigation to force carbon emissions rules for power plants, citing reports the White House will soon unveil plans to address climate change.

“Due to public reports that the President will be announcing major action on climate change very soon, the Attorney General has decided to postpone a lawsuit on this matter for a short period of time,” said Melissa Grace, spokeswoman for New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

New York is one of a dozen states and cities that on April 17 threatened to sue the Environmental Protection Agency in as few as 60 days.

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The litigation would be aimed at forcing completion of delayed rules, floated in draft form more than a year ago, that would set emissions standards for new power plants.

The cities and states also want the EPA to carry through on its commitment in a 2010 legal settlement to require carbon standards for existing power plants.

Other states that jointly threatened to sue with New York included Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington state and New Mexico.

Three green groups — the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) — that issued a similar 60-day lawsuit threat have also held back, at least for the moment.

“NRDC's reason for holding off is that we want to see what the administration announces,” said David Hawkins, the NRDC’s director of climate programs, in an email Tuesday. An attorney with the EDF said the group is awaiting news from the White House.

“We are not filing suit today, although we are carefully considering all of our options for next steps. And we are certainly awaiting the President’s announcement of his blueprint for climate progress with keen interest,” said Megan Ceronsky, an attorney with the EDF, in an email.

“With Congress’s failure to lead and our communities hard-hit with droughts, floods, wild fires, and other extreme weather, we have no time to waste in addressing carbon pollution. And power plants are by far the largest source of this pollution,” Ceronsky said.

The lawsuit postponements are another sign that the White House could soon announce plans for new executive-level actions to combat global warming.

Bloomberg reported June 14 that President Obama plans to announce climate actions in July, but the White House has not confirmed that time frame.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who is very active on climate change, told The Hill Monday that reports of a July roll-out are “consistent with what I am hearing ... from a variety of sources.” He declined to specify whether his sources are inside the White House.

Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) met with White House chief of staff Denis McDonough earlier in June to discuss climate change strategy.

Reuters reported late Monday on the decisions by states and green groups to hold off for now on the lawsuits.

—This post was updated at 9:25 a.m. and 9:46 a.m.

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