More than 70 lawmakers join suit challenging Trump power plant rollbacks

More than 70 lawmakers join suit challenging Trump power plant rollbacks

More than 70 Democratic lawmakers from both chambers have joined a suit challenging the Trump administration for rolling back Obama-era power plant regulations.

The Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in August scraps former President Obama’s Clean Power Plant rule. Lawmakers in the House and Senate filed separate amicus briefs challenging the rule late Friday.

The 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. The rule does not set any standards to cap those emissions.

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Critics argue ACE allows for only modest pollution controls at power plants, a feature that, if upheld, could hamstring future administrations from addressing climate-altering pollution through regulation under the Clean Air Act.

“The Clean Air Act and its amendments granted EPA authority with significant flexibility to address unforeseen air pollution challenges, including climate change,” Reps. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoDemocrats call for green energy relief in next stimulus package House coronavirus stimulus bill to include effort to limit political influence over science House coronavirus bill aims to prevent utility shutoffs MORE (D-N.Y) and Jared HuffmanJared William HuffmanHouse members race to prepare for first-ever remote votes Overnight Energy: Biden campaign says he would revoke Keystone XL permit | EPA emails reveal talks between Trump officials, chemical group before 2017 settlement | Tensions emerge on Natural Resources panel over virtual meetings Tensions emerge on Natural Resources panel over virtual meetings MORE (D-Calif.) wrote in a statement after filing a brief alongside 70 other lawmakers.

“We will continue to oppose this administration’s willful misinterpretations of environmental laws that seek to justify rolling back critical public health protections and undermine future administrations’ ability to safeguard our environment and the American people,” they wrote.

The Trump EPA had long argued the Clean Power Plant rule was too broad, creating an undue burden on industry.

"CPP's overreach would have driven up energy prices for consumers and businesses alike," EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump signs order removing environmental reviews for major projects | New Trump air rule will limit future pollution regulations, critics say | DNC climate group calls for larger federal investment on climate than Biden plan New Trump air rule will limit future pollution regulations, critics say OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump rule limits states from blocking pipeline projects | EPA finalizes rule to regulate cancer-linked chemical | Democrats want Congress to help plug 'orphan' oil and gas wells MORE said when the rule was first released. "We are proposing a better plan — it respects the rule of law and will enable states to build affordable, clean, reliable energy portfolios."

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Reached for comment Monday, the agency said, "EPA looks forward to defending the Affordable Clean Energy Rule before the court."

But a brief from senators argued the EPA has been too aligned with industry interests since the start of the Trump administration. 

“The record of this case, and of other regulatory matters of which this court may take notice, indeed raise the question whether this EPA is even capable of fair decision-making in matters involving the interests of the fossil fuel industry, or whether rampant cronyism, conflicts of interest, and corruption leave EPA under present leadership unable to conform itself to the strictures of [federal administrative law],” according to the filing from Sens. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSheldon Whitehouse leads Democrats into battle against Trump judiciary Bill aims to help farmers sell carbon credits GOP chairmen stake out turf in Obama-era probes MORE (D-R.I.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOvernight Energy: US Park Police say 'tear gas' statements were 'mistake' | Trump to reopen area off New England coast for fishing | Vulnerable Republicans embrace green issues Vulnerable Republicans embrace green issues in battle to save seats Senate Dems introduce bill to keep pilots and bus and train operators safe MORE (D-Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers Democratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight Oregon GOP Senate nominee contradicts own campaign by saying she stands with QAnon MORE (D-Ore.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzTrump calls New York Times 'fake newspaper' after headline change Calls for police reform sparks divisions in Congress Overnight Defense: Esper, Milley part of 'command center' for response to protests over George Floyd killing | Several West Point cadets test positive for coronavirus ahead of Trump commencement speech | UN report says Taliban, al Qaeda not breaking ties MORE (D-Hawaii), and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandWarren, Pressley introduce bill to make it a crime for police officers to deny medical care to people in custody Senate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers Senate Democrat introduces bill to protect food supply MORE (D-N.Y.).

Updated at 3:10 p.m.