Energy & Environment

22 states sue Trump over repeal of Obama-era power plant rules

A coalition of mostly Democratic-led states has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, arguing its rules for addressing power plant pollution are so weak they violate federal law.

Attorneys general from 22 states and several major cities including New York City and Los Angeles argue that the Trump administration’s rule violates the Clean Air Act by having virtually no impact on carbon emissions.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had finalized the rule in June to repeal and replace a capstone Obama-era carbon pollution regulation they say exceeded agency authority.{mosads}

The new replacement rule to the Clean Power Plan (CPP), deemed the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, aims to give states more time and authority to decide how to implement the best new technology to ease net emissions from coal-fired plants.

“Besides ignoring the science of climate change – the text of the ACE rule barely mentions climate change, much less recognize[s] the dire threat it poses to people’s health, the economy, and the environment – the rule disregards requirements of the federal Clean Air Act,” which requires regulators to use the “best system of emission reduction,” New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) said in a press release.

The suit is the second against the rule, following one filed in July from the American Lung Association.

“The ACE plan is trying to reduce the progress California and other states are making and keep failing coal pants on life support,” California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols said while standing alongside California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is also joining the suit.

Becerra referred to the ACE rule as a “toothless substitute” that artificially narrows the EPA’s authority.

Shortly after ACE was released, states and environmental groups said they would challenge the law in court, arguing it does so little to curb pollution, it cannot even be considered a serious regulation.

The Trump administration rule does not set a specific carbon reduction target for states, and it is narrowly tailored to deal with physical changes that can be made at power plants rather than broader regulatory solutions that could be imposed by states.

“Power plants can run less frequently, less intensely; there can be renewable generation that fills up the gaps,” Andres Restrepo, a lawyer with the Sierra Club, said of potential alternative measures when ACE was first announced.

The legal battle will largely boil down to how much action the Clean Air Act requires of the EPA. A decision could have major consequences, as a win for the agency could stymie future administrations from addressing climate change.

The EPA would not comment on the lawsuit but said, “in regards to ACE, EPA worked diligently to ensure we produced a solid rule, that we believe will be upheld in the courts, unlike the previous Administration’s Clean Power Plan.”

When the EPA first rolled out the new rule, they argued the Obama-era regulations — which remain tied up in court — went beyond requiring the best new technology to ease net emissions from coal-fired plants.

“Under the CPP, the EPA [under the] Obama administration went beyond implementing best technology,” a senior EPA said when announcing the regulations. “Under the CPP the Obama administration actually imposed emissions reductions on each and every state. We don’t believe that’s an EPA role or authority under the [Clean Air Act.]”

The states that are party to the lawsuit include New York, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. 

The District of Columbia; Boulder, Colo.; Chicago; Los Angeles; New York City; Philadelphia; and South Miami are also party to the suit.

–Updated at 1:08 p.m.

Tags Clean Air Act Climate change emissions Lawsuit Xavier Becerra

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