Two dozen states sue Obama over coal plant emissions rule

A coalition of 24 states and a coal mining company filed lawsuits Friday to challenge the most significant piece of President Obama’s environmental agenda, his signature climate change rule for power plants.

The litigants accuse the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of going far beyond the authority Congress granted to it by ordering a significant transformation of states’ electricity generation, moving away from fossil fuels like coal and toward lower-carbon sources like wind and solar power.

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They are asking the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to overturn the rule. They also want the court to immediately stop its implementation while it works its way through the courts.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R), who is leading the legal fight against the plan, called it “the single most onerous and illegal regulations that we’ve seen coming out of D.C. in a long time.”

On a call with reporters, Morrisey repeated many of the long-held arguments against the rule: that it will hurt his state’s coal mining industry, raise power rates for consumers and risk electricity reliability.

“EPA’s rule is flatly illegal and one of the most aggressive executive branch power grabs we’ve seen in a long time,” he said. “The EPA cannot do what it intends to do legally.”

Morrissey said he wants the court to rule on a stay “as soon as possible.” He noted it took a federal judge about a month to delay an EPA water regulation earlier this month, and said that could be a “guidepost” for how long litigation might take. 

The climate rule, dubbed the Clean Power Plan, seeks a 32 percent cut in the power sector’s carbon emissions by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. Each state has been assigned a specific emissions goal based on its unique circumstances, with flexibility in how the goals are met.

West Virginia and Murray led a similar coalition in two lawsuits earlier this year against the regulation that were deemed premature by the D.C. court. The first was before the final rule had been announced, and the second was in August, before it was published in the Federal Register.

The Obama administration has been steadfast in its defense of the legal backing of the rule.

The EPA said its rule is legal and will pass all court challenges.

“The Clean Power Plan has strong scientific and legal foundations, provides states with broad flexibilities to design and implement plans, and is clearly within EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyOvernight Energy: Joshua Tree National Park lost M in fees due to shutdown | Dem senator, AGs back case against oil giants | Trump officials secretly shipped plutonium to Nevada Overnight Energy: Ethics panel clears Grijalva over settlement with staffer | DC aims to run on 100 percent clean energy by 2032 | Judges skeptical of challenge to Obama smog rule Judges skeptical of case against Obama smog rule MORE said in a Friday statement.

“We are confident we will again prevail against these challenges and will be able to work with states to successfully implement these first-ever national standards to limit carbon pollution the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States,” she said.

The West Virginia and Murray lawsuits came the day the rule was published in the Federal Register, the first day court challenges can legally be filed.

The states joining West Virginia are Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Arizona and North Carolina.

The attorneys general of 15 liberal states, along with the District of Columbia and New York City, are planning to intervene in the lawsuit to support the EPA.

Those state and city officials, led by New York State, said in August that they “fully anticipate defending the rules if they are challenged in court.” 

Friday also marks the first day lawmakers can file challenges under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to quickly overturn regulations.

Lawmakers are mobilizing quickly against the new climate change rule from President Obama, announcing they will file formal congressional challenges on Monday. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Trump should beware the 'clawback' Congress Juan Williams: America needs radical solutions MORE (R-Ky.) on Friday said he and Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinDemocrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Senate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general GOP wants to pit Ocasio-Cortez against Democrats in the Senate MORE (D-W.Va.) will introduce a CRA resolution to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pollution standards for new power plants. 

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Sens. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoDems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants GOP senator: Border deal is 'a very good compromise' Push to include contractor back pay in funding deal hits GOP roadblock MORE (R-W.Va.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction MORE (D-N.D.) will introduce a resolution opposing the EPA’s existing power plant rule at the same time. McConnell’s office said he will schedule a vote on the resolutions shortly afterward.

“I have vowed to do all I can to fight back against this administration on behalf of the thousands of Kentucky coal miners and their families, and this CRA is another tool in that battle,” McConnell said in a statement. 

“The CRAs that we will file will allow Congress the ability to fight these anti-coal regulations.”

In the House, Rep. Ed WhitfieldWayne (Ed) Edward WhitfieldWhy Republicans took aim at an ethics watchdog What Azerbaijan wants from Israel? Overnight Energy: Green group sues Exxon over climate science MORE (R-Ky.) will introduce the resolutions.

Devin Henry contributed.

This story was last updated at 12:24 a.m.