22 states sue over EPA roll­back of clean en­ergy

Merced Sun-Star - - Front Page - BY LISA FRIED­MAN

A coali­tion of 22 states and seven cities on Tues­day sued to block the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion from eas­ing re­stric­tions on coal-burn­ing power plants, set­ting up a case that could de­ter­mine how much lever­age the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has to fight cli­mate change in the future.

The law­suit is the lat­est salvo in a long-run­ning bat­tle over the future of coal and how to reg­u­late the na­tion’s heav­ily pol­lut­ing power plants, which are ma­jor pro­duc­ers of green­house gases that warm the planet. It also is the most sig­nif­i­cant test to date of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­forts to elim­i­nate or weaken for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s reg­u­la­tions to re­duce the United States’ con­tri­bu­tion to global warm­ing.

It is a case that could go all the way to the Supreme

Court. If jus­tices there were to ul­ti­mately de­cide in fa­vor of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, it could weaken the abil­ity of future pres­i­dents to reg­u­late car­bon diox­ide pol­lu­tion from power plants, ex­perts said, and make it harder for the United States to tackle cli­mate change.

“It would have a dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect on the abil­ity of future ad­min­is­tra­tions to reg­u­late green­house gases un­der the Clean Air Act,” said Richard L. Revesz, a pro­fes­sor at New York Uni­ver­sity who spe­cial­izes in environmen­tal law, re­fer­ring to a 1970 law that re­quires the Environmen­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency to reg­u­late haz­ardous air pol­lu­tants.

The court chal­lenge, led by New York’s at­tor­ney gen­eral, Leti­tia James, ar­gued that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s EPA had no ba­sis for weak­en­ing an Obama-era reg­u­la­tion that set the first-ever na­tional lim­its on car­bon diox­ide pol

lu­tion from power plants.

The Obama-era rule, the Clean Power Plan, re­quired states to im­ple­ment plans to re­duce car­bon diox­ide emis­sions by 2022, and en­cour­aged that to hap­pen by clos­ing heav­ily pol­lut­ing plants and in­stead gen­er­at­ing elec­tric­ity us­ing nat­u­ral gas or re­new­able en­ergy. Car­bon diox­ide re­leased into the at­mos­phere is a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to global warm­ing be­cause it traps the sun’s heat.

“The sci­ence is in­dis­putable. Our cli­mate is chang­ing. Ice caps are melt­ing,” James said in a state­ment. She called the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion plan a “do-noth­ing rule.”

The bat­tle lines around this law­suit gen­er­ally mir­ror pre­vi­ous lit­i­ga­tion over the Clean Power Plan, with blue states and cities (along with environmen­tal and pub­lic health groups) on one side, and busi­ness groups and the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try on the other.

Oth­ers join­ing the suit in­clude Mas­sachusetts, Colorado, Wis­con­sin, North Carolina, Con­necti­cut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illi­nois, Maine, Mary­land, Michi­gan, Min­nesota,

New Jer­sey, New Mex­ico, Ore­gon, Penn­syl­va­nia, Rhode Is­land, Ver­mont, Vir­ginia, Washington, and the Dis­trict of Columbia. The cities in­volved are Boul­der, Colorado, Los An­ge­les, New York City, Chicago, South Mi­ami and Philadelph­ia.

Pre­vi­ously, Repub­li­can­led states and in­dus­try groups sued to stop Obama’s Clean Power Plan from go­ing into ef­fect. They won a re­prieve in 2016 when the Supreme Court tem­po­rar­ily blocked the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion from im­pos­ing changes.

Pa­trick Mor­risey, the at­tor­ney gen­eral of West Vir­ginia who helped to lead the Repub­li­can law­suit against the Obama rules, pre­dicted fail­ure for the law­suit against the Trump plan. He ar­gued in a state­ment that nei­ther the

Clean Air Act nor the Con­sti­tu­tion “al­low the EPA to serve as a cen­tral en­ergy plan­ning author­ity.”

The new chal­lenge, filed in the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the Dis­trict of Columbia, ar­gues that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­place­ment, known as the Af­ford­able Clean En­ergy rule, ig­nores the EPA’s re­spon­si­bil­ity un­der the law to set lim­its on green­house gases.

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