Energy & Environment

More than 70 lawmakers join suit challenging Trump power plant rollbacks

pollution emitting from smoke stacks

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.

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 Tonko (D-N.Y) and Jared Huffman (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 Wheeler 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.”

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 Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

Updated at 3:10 p.m.

Tags Andrew Wheeler Brian Schatz Clean Power Plant rule Ed Markey Edward Markey Environmental Protection Agency EPA Jared Huffman Jeff Merkley Kirsten Gillibrand Lawsuit Paul Tonko Sheldon Whitehouse
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