EPA: Climate rule on ‘sound legal and technical foundation’

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is confident that its landmark climate rule for power plants will withstand lawsuits, its top air regulator said.

One day before the rule is to be published in the Federal Register, the EPA’s Janet McCabe sought to reassure the public that the coming flood of lawsuits will fail.

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“The Clean Power Plan is based on a sound legal and technical foundation, and it was shaped by extensive input from states, industry, energy regulators, health and environmental groups and individual members of the public from across this country,” McCabe told reporters Thursday.

“As a result, the plan is fair, flexible, affordable and designed to reflect the fast-growing trends toward cleaner American energy,” she said.

The rule seeks a 32 percent cut in the power sector’s carbon dioxide emissions, written under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.

About 15 states, led by West Virginia, plan to file lawsuits in federal court, along with numerous business and fossil fuel groups. The challenge is likely to reach the Supreme Court, given the high stakes.

“We feel strongly that, given our authorities and legal precedent of the Clean Air Act, that our application of 111(d) here conforms with those authorities and that legal precedent,” McCabe said.

The EPA has been under fire for the nearly three months it took between the regulation’s Aug. 3 unveiling and Friday’s publication. Because lawsuits and congressional challenges cannot be filed until the rule is published, opponents charged that the EPA wanted to delay challenges.

McCabe disagreed, saying that the delay is routine and that the EPA only took about a month before sending the rule to publishers for final action.

“This is a routine, standard process that we do every time a rule is finalized,” she said. “This actually moved along quite rapidly, considering the length of the rule and the fact that there were three packages.”

McCabe and her staff have been focusing over the last three months on answering questions from states, utilities and other stakeholders about the rule.

The questions have mostly centered around how states can apply for extensions for the rule’s deadlines and how they can take advantage of the incentive program for new renewable energy infrastructure, she said.