States, biz groups back coal company in EPA climate rule lawsuit

Twelve states and an array of business groups asked a federal court to step in and stop the Obama administration from moving further in its attempt to limit carbon pollution from power plants.

In briefs filed Monday, the states and groups supported the arguments made by coal mining company Murray Energy Corp. that the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate rule violates federal law and should be stopped immediately.

ADVERTISEMENT

“What EPA is attempting is nothing short of extraordinary,” said the states, led by West Virginia.

The states pointed to a section of the Clean Air Act that they said plainly prohibits the EPA from “double regulation” of power plants, which are already under pollution rules for mercury and other air toxics.

“That provision grants EPA certain authority to require states to regulate existing-source emissions, but it specifically excludes the regulation of any air pollutant emitted from a source category that EPA already regulates under Section 112 of the Act,” the wrote.

They said that the EPA’s argument in favor of the carbon limits relies solely on a “drafting error” in the law, and is “unprecedented and entirely meritless.”

“Under this court’s controlling case law and well-established practice, an obvious clerical error—a relatively common occurrence in modern, complex legislation—must be disregarded.”

The states have separately filed their own lawsuit against the rule.

A separate brief filed by the National Mining Association and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity focuses on arguing that, despite a long-running precedent that courts do not rule on regulations until they’re finalized, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit should intervene.

The June proposal is really a final action and subject to the court’s jurisdiction, the coal groups said.

“The agency has not only made a final decision to regulate, it has made that regulation its highest priority,” they wrote. “Indeed, the regulations are a critical administration priority, with the president directing the agency to issue the regulations on an assigned timetable.”

Furthermore, the proposed rule is already having an effect on coal companies, adding to the urgency for the court, the groups said.

“It has set off a wave of actual and announced future retirements of coal generators, with the upstream result of shuttered coal mines and laid off coal workers,” they wrote.

Yet another brief was filed by 11 business groups in support of Murray.

“Prohibiting double-regulation of existing power plants makes sense,” those groups said. “An additional set of regulations under [section 111(d)] would make operating power plants much more expensive.”

The EPA has maintained that its rule is not only legal, but required under the Clean Air Act, and courts have historically supported the agency’s greenhouse gas regulations. It has asked the court to dismiss the Murray lawsuit as premature.

The agency has been asked to respond to the arguments in its own court brief by Feb. 12.