21 states, Washington sue over eas­ing of coal rules

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Don Thomp­son and Adam Beam

SACRA­MENTO, Calif. — A coali­tion of 21 Demo­cratic-led states and the Dis­trict of Columbia sued the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion Tues­day over its de­ci­sion to ease re­stric­tions on coal­fired power plants, with Cal­i­for­nia’s gov­er­nor say­ing the pres­i­dent is try­ing to res­cue an out­dated in­dus­try.

In June, the U.S. Environmen­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency elim­i­nated the agency’s Clean Power Plan and re­placed it with a new rule that gives states more lee­way in de­cid­ing up­grades for coal-fired power plants.

The law­suit, filed in the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the Dis­trict of Columbia Cir­cuit, says the new rule vi­o­lates the fed­eral Clean Air Act be­cause it does not mean­ing­fully re­place power plants’ green­house gas emis­sions.

“They’re rolling things back to an age that no longer ex­ists, try­ing to prop up the coal in­dus­try,” Cal­i­for­nia Gov. Gavin New­som said at a news con­fer­ence.

He said the law­suit was not just about Trump but “our kids and grand­kids” who would con­tinue to be harmed by coal pol­lu­tants.

West Vir­ginia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Pa­trick Mor­risey, whose state pro­duced the sec­ond most coal be­hind Wy­oming in 2017, pre­dicted the law­suit will ul­ti­mately fail at the U.S. Supreme Court, which stayed an ear­lier Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion at­tempt in 2016 at the request of a com­pet­ing 27-state coali­tion.

He called the law­suit a “big gov­ern­ment ‘ power grab’ ” and ar­gued that the Demo­cratic at­tor­neys gen­eral “are dead wrong” in their in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Clean Air Act.

The White House did not re­spond to a request for com­ment.

The U.S. EPA said in a state­ment that it wouldn’t com­ment on pend­ing lit­i­ga­tion, but that it “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.”

The law­suit was filed by at­tor­neys gen­eral in Cal­i­for­nia, Colorado, Con­necti­cut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Mary­land, Mas­sachusetts, Michi­gan, Min­nesota, New Jer­sey, New Mex­ico, New York, North Carolina, Ore­gon, Penn­syl­va­nia, Rhode Is­land, Ver­mont, Vir­ginia, Washington, Wis­con­sin and the Dis­trict of Columbia.

“The sci­ence is in­dis­putable; our cli­mate is chang­ing. Ice caps are melt­ing. Sea lev­els are ris­ing. Weather is be­com­ing more and more ex­treme,” New York At­tor­ney Gen­eral Leti­tia James, who is lead­ing the coali­tion, said in a state­ment. “Rather than stay­ing the course with poli­cies aimed at fix­ing the prob­lem and pro­tect­ing peo­ple’s health, safety, and the en­vi­ron­ment, the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion re­pealed the Clean Power Plan and re­placed it with this ‘Dirty Power’ rule.”

The states were joined by six lo­cal gov­ern­ments: Boul­der, Colorado; Chicago, Los An­ge­les, New York City, Philadelph­ia and South Mi­ami, Florida.

The EPA’s anal­y­sis of the new rules pre­dicts an ex­tra 300 to 1,500 peo­ple will die each year by 2030 be­cause of ad­di­tional air pol­lu­tion from the power grid.

But EPA Ad­min­is­tra­tor An­drew Wheeler in June said Amer­i­cans want “re­li­able en­ergy that they can af­ford,” adding he ex­pected more coal plans to open as a re­sult.

“It’s more of a fos­sil fuel pro­tec­tion plan,” Cal­i­for­nia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Xavier Be­cerra said.

It would re­place the Clean Power Plan, which would re­quire cut­ting emis­sions from fos­sil fu­el­burn­ing power plants. Be­cerra said that was ex­pected to elim­i­nate as much cli­mate change pol­lu­tion as is emit­ted by more than 160 mil­lion cars a year, the equiv­a­lent of 70 per­cent of the na­tion’s pas­sen­ger cars, and was pro­jected to pre­vent up to 3,600 ad­di­tional deaths an­nu­ally.

New­som and James said states’ ex­ist­ing ef­forts to re­duce green­house gases are be­gin­ning to work while cre­at­ing green jobs and vi­brant economies.

RICH PEDRONCELL­I/AP

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is try­ing to prop up the coal in­dus­try, Cal­i­for­nia Gov. Gavin New­som said.

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