Blog – What They’re Saying: Legal and Policy Experts Voice Support for the Clean Power Plan

The Clean Power Plan (CPP) is built on a strong legal foundation. It is consistent with the law, earlier court precedents, and other EPA programs. Please see below for a sampling of the many legal and policy experts supporting the CPP in advance of the D.C. Circuit Court oral arguments held on September 27.


A comprehensive list of the supporters of the Clean Power Plan in court can be found HERE.


“Rigorous scientific study indisputably tells us that disruptive climate change is primarily driven by the carbon dioxide we are releasing into the atmosphere by burning coal, oil and natural gas. It also tells us that, because the world has waited so long to address this problem, missing any opportunity now to reduce emissions will make it increasingly difficult to reduce them sufficiently to stave off the worst consequences of climate change.

“Proof of the threat is literally all around us as the world increasingly experiences harmful and costly effects of climate change, including the increased frequency and severity of heat waves and highly destructive downpours because warmer air retains more water vapor. […]

“That’s why this court case is so important. U.S. leadership was an essential ingredient in the Paris accord, and other nations are watching to see what we will do. A fully implemented Clean Power Plan will demonstrate our resolve to meet our commitments and thereby encourage other countries to implement their plans as well.”

– James McCarthy, professor of biological oceanography at Harvard University and board member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Ken Kimmell president of the Union of Concerned Scientists (9/27/16, The Las Vegas Sun)


“Carbon pollution not only degrades air quality, it damages the health of the American public, leads to coastal erosion that threatens entire communities, acidifies the ocean, and increases the risk of deadly weather such as the drought, flooding and violent storms.

“If implemented, the Clean Power Plan will help ease those effects. Indeed, the plan is estimated to prevent 3,600 premature deaths, 90,000, asthma attacks in children and 300,000 missed work and school days by 2030.  From both a public health and a climate protection standpoint, the estimated benefit of the Clean Power Plan is valued at $54 billion per year.”

Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) (9/27/16, The Hill)


“On September 27, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on the U.S. the Clean Power Plan, one of the most significant pieces of environmental policy the United States has ever seen.

“When the White House announced the plan in August 2015, it was heralded as the strongest action the United States has ever taken to combat climate change. The centerpiece of the U.S. national climate plan, by 2030, the Clean Power Plan will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels, and it will cut carbon pollution from the power sector by 30 percent. The plan will also create jobs, save consumers US$155 billion from 2020 to 2030, and reduce health hazards by cutting pollutants that contribute to soot and smog.”

– Edward Cameron, Managing Director, Business for Social Responsibility (9/27/16, The Huffington Post)


“The Clean Power Plan uses the grid’s interconnectedness to reduce power-sector emissions in an efficient, effective way. The Plan would cut carbon dioxide emissions significantly by 2030 – to about a third below 2005 levels. […]

“We should shift electricity generation to cleaner sources of power from dirtier ones and make the country’s largest machine a greener, less polluting one . We hope the federal court in Washington, D.C. listens to their advice.”

– Ann Carlson Shirley Shapiro Professor of Environmental Law at UCLA School of Law and her two colleagues, Cara Horowitz and William Boyd (9/27/16, Legal Planet)


“We project that electricity bills will be lower under the Clean Power Plan than a business-as-usual scenario in nearly every state by 2025, and in all states by 2030. The rule offers states a choice whether to meet a “mass-based” target, expressed as tons of carbon emitted, or a “rate-based” target, expressed as carbon emissions per megawatt hour of electricity produced. In the mass-based scenario, we found that a typical family in the best-performing states can expect to see a 7.3 percent decline in electricity bills by 2030, which translates into a savings of $60 to $80 annually. Under the rate-based scenario, the decline reaches 19.9 percent, for a savings of $190 to $272. Also, our analysis is conservative in several respects, so people can expect bills even lower than we’re projecting.

“What does this mean for consumers? Well, if you want to save money on your electricity bills, support the on-going efforts to fight climate change such as the the Clean Power Plan.”

– David Arkush, Managing Director of Public Citizen’s Climate Program (9/26/16, The Hill)


As former administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency who served three Republican presidents, we strongly support the president’s Clean Power Plan. It is consistent with the fundamental, longstanding approach this country has applied in the face of environmental threats. We have filed a supporting brief with the court. […]

“Given the explicit deference to state authority embedded in the Clean Air Act, the charge by opponents that this rule amounts to ‘one of the most aggressive executive branch power grabs,’ as one state attorney general put it, simply ignores the law and its success over 45 years.

“That law, passed long before climate change had emerged as a looming catastrophe, may not be the ideal tool to address this daunting challenge. But Congress’s failure to take any meaningful action requires the E.P.A. to act with the only tool it has — the Clean Air Act. Once the agency determined that carbon dioxide posed a risk to public health, as it did in 2009, the agency was required to act to reduce that risk, under a 2007 Supreme Court ruling.”

– William Ruckelshaus, Former EPA Administrator who served under Presidents Nixon and Reagan, and William Reilly, Former EPA Administrator who served under President George H.W. Bush (9/26/16, New York Times)


“With so much at stake, it’s time that we move forward. On Tuesday, I hope the D.C. Circuit will be able see the clear facts in this case: the Clean Power Plan is legal, it’s flexible, it’s in line with where the market is already going, and it will allow EPA to tackle our biggest environmental challenge using the same smart, effective and economically responsible approach that it has successfully employed for decades.”
– Christie Todd Whitman, Former EPA Administrator who served under President George W. Bush (9/26/16, TIME)


“The challengers to the Clean Power Plan — a well-organized set of coal companies, coal-dependent electric utilities, and some states led by climate change skeptics — have argued that the Clean Power Plan tramples on state regulatory authority and would transform the EPA into a ‘central planning authority for the power sector.’ Nothing could be further from the truth.”

– Dan Esty, Hillhouse Professor of Environmental Law and Policy at Yale University and former Commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (9/25/16, New Haven Register)


“But the Clean Power Plan, while certainly a very important rule, is not the boundary-breaking behemoth that the petitioners make it out to be. On the contrary, it explicitly acknowledges and complies with the many constraints that Clean Air Act places on EPA’s authority to regulate existing power plants. Furthermore, the plan’s basic components have already been used in several prior Clean Air Act regulations, issued under administrations of both parties.”

– Richard L. Revesz, Dean Emeritus, Lawrence King Professor of Law, and Director of the Center for Policy Integrity at NYU Law; Denise A. Grab, Senior Attorney at the Institute for Public Integrity at NYU Law; Jack Lienke, Senior Attorney at the Institute for Public Integrity at NYU Law (9/19/2016, The Hill)


“First, the EPA’s authority to move forward with regulating carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act is not a matter of debate. EPA has this authority, and it is in fact obligated to move forward. The law says so and the Supreme Court has said so, twice. As I have said before, the matter, I believe, should be put to rest. While it would have been better for Congress to have acted, the EPA was well within its jurisdiction.”
– Christie Todd Whitman, Former EPA Administrator who served under President George W. Bush (9/26/16, TIME)

“In sum, the Clean Power Plan is neither an unprecedented intrusion into state energy planning nor a radical departure from past pollution control measures. It offers a carefully crafted and legally appropriate pathway to a clean energy future. More will need to be done to ‘decarbonize’ our economy in the coming decades. But the EPA regulations on power plant greenhouse gas emissions are a good first step.
– Dan Esty, Hillhouse Professor of Environmental Law and Policy at Yale University and former Commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (9/25/16, New Haven Register)


“The other point I want to make is to emphasize what the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is likely to be considering when it evaluates the Clean Power Plan or how it’s likely to be thinking about the choices that EPA made. And that is to say that there is a long tradition in the courts, including by the US Supreme Court, even with a conservative majority on the Court when Justice Scalia was still alive, in deferring to the complex decisions that EPA makes in implementing the Clean Air Act.”
– Ann Carlson, Shirley Shapiro Professor of Environmental Law, University of California-Los Angeles School of Law and Co-Director, Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment (9/21/16)


“A lot is riding on the outcome of this historic hearing before the entire D.C. Circuit.

“The overriding purpose of Clean Air Act is to protect public health and the environment. Carbon pollution poses a clear and present danger to the health and safety of current and future generations.

“The Clean Power Plan has been carefully crafted to reduce these dangerous emissions in the most flexible, efficient and cost-effective way possible within the framework of existing law.

“The court should uphold the plan as a reasonable and responsible exercise of EPA’s authority to fulfill its Clean Air Act mandate and to do so in ways that have successfully worked well in the past.”

– Karl Rabago, the Executive Director of the Pace University Elisabeth Haub School of Law’s Energy and Climate Center, and Sue Tierney, Senior Advisor at Analysis Group and a former head of policy at the U.S. Department of Energy (9/26/16, National Law Journal)


“In these complicated cases, the opponents of rules always come up with arguments for why rules should be set aside. The case will turn primarily on the interpretation of the Clean Air Act, which supports the agency’s decision.”
Richard L. Revesz, Dean Emeritus, Lawrence King Professor of Law, and Director of the Center for Policy Integrity at NYU Law (9/21/16, Sidewire)


“Congress provided meaningful guidance for the EPA to follow. But also intentionally drafted certain provisions of the law with broad language, so EPA could play a key role in determining how to address new air pollution problems as they arose – consistent of course with the guidance provided in the law itself.”
– Brianne Gorod, Chief Counsel, Constitutional Accountability Center (9/21/16)


“Put another way, [the Members of Congress backing the challengers] are arguing that congressional failure to act on a comprehensive energy and climate bill in 2010 provides evidence of Congress’ intent in enacting the Clean Air Act in 1970. The irrelevance of actions in 2010 to understanding the views of Congress in 1970 is obvious: What a group of legislators vote to do has no relevance on interpreting the intent of a different set of legislators four decades prior. As Justice Scalia once penned, ‘the views of a legislator concerning a statute already enacted are entitled to no more weight than the views of a judge concerning a statute not yet passed.’”

– Greg Dotson, Vice President for Energy Policy, Center for American Progress (9/26/16, Morning Consult)


“These rules are enormously important for the health of Americans and EPA has done these rules paying attention to both the costs and the benefits,”

– Richard Revesz, Dean Emeritus, Lawrence King Professor of Law, and Director of the Center for Policy Integrity at NYU Law, (6/09/2016, Courthouse News)


“The whole idea here is that this is something that will make a difference. It’s achievable, it’s something that the states and the federal government can work together very carefully on, and for all those reasons should be held up by the DC Circuit.”

– Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller (9/26/16, Financial Times)


“It’s hard to succeed on a commandeering argument when there’s no commandeering.”

– Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller (9/26/16, E&E News)


“Clearly the forces driving this lawsuit are not arising from public resistance to the Clean Power Plan.”
– Steven Kull, Director of the Program for Public Consultation, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland (9/15/2016, Alternet)


“Iconic businesses — Google, Mars, Microsoft, Amazon, Ikea, and others — have filed in support of the Clean Power Plan. A separate amicus brief in support was also signed by 25 organizations representing small to mid-size businesses from across the country: national organizations like the American Sustainable Business Council and the U.S. Black Chambers, as well as local- and state-level business associations from Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, South Carolina and Arizona (states whose attorneys general are opposing the Clean Power Plan).”
– Frank Knapp, Co-chair of the American Sustainable Business Council and president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce (9/12/16, Morning Consult)


Despite the obvious benefits of the Clean Power Plan, many remain opposed. Polluters and their political allies have sued to block the Plan with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In briefs to the court, they made a number of unsubstantiated claims of harm while completely ignoring the standards’ strong legal foundation in the Clean Air Act, one of America’s bedrock environmental laws used to protect Americans and make our communities safe and whole.”

– Michele L. Jawando, Vice President Legal Progress, Center for American Progress (8/31/2016, New Orleans Tribune)


“In my work at the American Lung Association, I’ve met so many people with personal stories about how air pollution has impacted their lives. The Clean Power Plan is critical for people like Laura Kellogg and her family. Laura’s three children have asthma and spent too much of their childhood struggling to breathe. On the advice of the children’s physician, the family moved from New England to the North Carolina coast, where the improved air quality has allowed all three kids to lead healthier, more active lives. Laura and her family have been vocal supporters of the Clean Power Plan because it will help clean up pollution for kids with asthma, especially for those who aren’t able to move to an area with healthier air. […]

“Record heat, floods and fires all make evident the urgent need to act now. As the D.C. Circuit Court prepares to hear this case, I urge governors and legislators across the country to develop and put in place the Clean Power Plan for each state. Use the tools placed in your hands to clean up the air we breathe today and in the future. All Americans – regardless of where they live – deserve to breathe healthy air.”

Harold Wimmer, President and CEO, American Lung Association (9/26/16, The Hill)


“The Clean Power Plan is one of the most significant steps our country has taken to address climate change by reducing carbon pollution, 40 percent of which comes from fossil-fuel fired power plants. To America’s working families this step is about so much more than cleaning up our air and water, it is about advancing our fights for justice on all fronts — economic, immigrant and racial.”

– Mary Kay Henry, International President, Service Employees International Union (9/26/16, Medium)


“These readily achievable reductions are not too much to ask of an industry that contributes disproportionately to a grave public hazard.” 

Brief of environmental and public health intervenor organizations


We are confident that the court will recognize that in adopting the Clean Power Plan, EPA properly fulfilled its congressionally mandated role as the expert agency best suited to decide how to reduce carbon pollution from the most polluting sources in the country.”

– Joanne Spalding, Chief Climate Counsel, Sierra Club (9/23/16)


“Power plants operate together in an interconnected grid, and it’s reasonable for EPA to take those facts into account in assessing cost-effective pollution control measures.”

– David Doniger, Director of the Climate and Clean Air Program, Natural Resources Defense Council (9/25/16, The Hill)


“Letting power plants’ carbon pollution escape regulation because a different rule regulates other pollutants is, to quote our brief in this case, like exempting restaurants from food handling requirements because they are subject to the fire code.

Howard Fox, Counsel, Earthjustice (9/15/16)


“There’s really a broad coalition- it’s a testament to the importance of the case, and to the degree to which this is not a case of sort of EPA and environmentalists versus industry. Industry itself is very much divided, and there’s very important voices that felt strongly enough to actually enter the case in support of the rule.”

– Sean Donahue, Counsel for Environmental Defense Fund (9/15/16)


“It’s critical now to start doing this in order to avoid the severe climate damage that is caused by the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere. The damages that we’re talking about, just to bring this back from the esoteric of the court’s opinion to what we experience in our daily lives include increased numbers of high heat event days, increased risk of heat waves, increased risk of wild fires and droughts that accompany these heat events, increased risk of more intense storms and flooding, increased sea level rise due to coastal flooding, and worsened air quality that accompany high heat and wildfire events.”

– Ann Weeks, Senior Counsel and Legal Director, Clean Air Task Force (9/15/16)