Blog – What They’re Saying: News Stories on the Clean Power Plan

The Clean Power Plan is built on a strong legal foundation. It is consistent with the law, earlier court precedents, and other EPA programs. Please see below for excerpts from the news coverage released before the D.C. Circuit Court oral arguments held on September 27.

Reuters: Most states on track to meet emissions targets they call burden

The 27 states challenging Obama’s Clean Power Plan in court say the lower emissions levels it would impose are an undue burden. But most are likely to hit them anyway.

Already, Arkansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma and South Dakota appear to be meeting the CPP’s early targets. And changes in the power market, along with policies favoring clean generation, are propelling most of the rest toward timely compliance, according to researchers, power producers and officials, as well as government filings reviewed by Reuters.


Bloomberg News: Obama’s Clean Power Plan heads to court: what to know

Carbon dioxide emissions are already declining in the U.S. as utilities replace coal with natural gas and as tax credits encourage the development of wind and solar power. But the Clean Power Plan ensures that the U.S. will keep making progress and confirms the nation’s intention to meet its obligations under the Paris climate agreement.

“It has really important signaling value to indicate that we are definitely going to do this,” said Benjamin Longstreth, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. […]

“We have these great trends in the industry,” said Joanne Spalding, a managing attorney with the Sierra Club’s environmental law program. “But we’re not going to get there—we’re not going to get to the level of emissions reductions we need to achieve our climate goals and to meet our international commitments—without the Clean Power Plan and EPA’s continued authority to require reduced emissions from these sources.” […]

Even so, many of the states complaining the loudest are on track to meet the targets. According to an analysis commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund, as many as 21 of the states fighting the Clean Power Plan in court can hit their interim goals during the first three-year compliance period from 2022  to 2024. And as many as 18 of them can get all the way through 2030 by relying exclusively on existing generation, already planned investments, and implementation of existing state policies, EDF said in a legal filing summarizing the analysis.


Washington Post: A key part of Obama’s climate legacy gets its day in court

Activists and other supporters insist that the Environmental Protection Agency is acting within its authority to try to reduce the public health threat posed by CO2 pollution. In court filings, the groups say the agency responded to concerns from industry and state officials by ensuring flexibility and a gradual phase-in of the new rules.

Well before the plan was finalized, they note, companies were working to generate cleaner electricity and moderate demand. Many utilities were closing old coal-fired plants, not just because of their age but because they would need to comply with new regulations on mercury pollution.

In fact, many states, including some of those challenging the plan, already are on pace to meet its early targets. “Ironically, even if it’s struck down, we may see a reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions in the electricity sector because of trends in moving to natural gas,” said Ann E. Carlson, an environmental law professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. But, she added, “What the court has to say about EPA’s authority . . . will be important for future administrations. It will have consequences.”


The Hill: Obama climate rule faces critical test in court

Supporters say that Congress only intended to prevent double regulation of the same pollutants from the same plants. The challengers’ reading would illogically force the EPA to choose which harmful substances to regulate.

“To get to where the opponents want to get, they have to engage in all kinds of very strained statutory interpretation gymnastics that is not persuasive,” Revesz said. […]

Obama’s allies think the constitutional arguments don’t hold weight.

David Bookbinder, a consultant and former Sierra Club attorney, said the courts have allowed EPA to take similar actions.

“EPA does that all the time,” he said. “Power plants are required to do things, and to close, and to shift generation and to do all the exact same things as a result of those rules that they would be forced to do under the Clean Power Plan.” […]

The administration and its supporters are likely to lean heavily on the idea that courts should give federal agencies a great amount of deference in cases where the law is not clear.

“There is a long tradition in the courts … in deferring the complex decisions that EPA makes in implementing the Clean Air Act,” said Ann Carlson, a University of California Los Angeles professor and supporter of the rule.


ThinkProgress: A quick and dirty guide to the Clean Power Plan

A lot of politicians are making this about coal communities. But, frankly, coal communities have been getting the short end of the stick for a long time. After being told for generations that they were making a sacrifice to keep the lights on and America running (they were), these people now aren’t getting compensated for that sacrifice. Coal companies — and coal executives, specifically — have acted atrociously, backtracking on commitments to keep up pension plans, paying themselves massive bonuses while declaring bankruptcy, and continuing to donate to politicians who refuse to hold coal accountable for destroying both the environment and the health of the people who worked for them.

When people are told they might lose their jobs, it hurts. But in the long-term, for the country, the CPP will actually bring more economic benefit than pain, according to the non-partisan think tank Economic Policy Institute, which found that the CPP would lead to nearly 100,000 more U.S. jobs by 2020 than the business-as-usual scenario.


E & E News: World watches as U.S. climate saga heads for court showdown                                                                                         

The 18 states supporting EPA say the costs would be minimal at most and would be well worth the climate and health benefits of cutting carbon and reducing other air pollutants. That includes fewer cases of asthma and premature deaths but also counts the value of dialing back the severe weather that scientists predict will only get worse if global warming continues.


Politico: Obama’s climate legacy to get its day in court

Obama has checked off a long list of climate policies: The Paris agreement that could enter into force before he leaves office, improvement in the fuel economy of cars and trucks; the mercury pollution rule that shuttered some of the nation’s dirtiest power plants; a bevy of appliance efficiency rules projected to yield billions of dollars in energy savings; measures curbing methane, hydrofluorocarbons and other greenhouse gases; a recent moratorium on new coal leasing on federal land; and extension of tax incentives for renewable energy.

The CPP is perhaps the most significant since it represents the first federal effort to reduce carbon emissions from the electric power sector, the biggest source of greenhouse gases. It’s a key part of meeting the U.S. self-imposed goals to the international commitment to lower emissions.  


E & E News: In landmark case, legions line up for battle

Supporters of U.S. EPA’s regulation were quick to jump in to defend it. Eighteen states lined up on EPA’s side, joined by environmentalists, health groups and local governments. Clean energy groups and a collection of utilities also stepped in.

And on the periphery of the main combatants, everyone from Mars Inc. and Madeleine Albright on EPA’s side to former state regulators and legal nonprofits on the other side have filed friend-of-the-court briefs to voice their own concerns. […]

Iowa is one of 18 states defending the rule as intervenors in court, along with the District of Columbia, Chicago, New York and several other cities and other local governments.

Without the Clean Power Plan, they say they’ll bear the brunt of the disastrous effects of climate change. In legal briefs this year, the states argued they’ll face increased flooding, more severe storms, wildfires and drought without federal action on climate change. […]

But power companies aren’t all against the rule. A coalition of utilities, including Southern California Edison Co. and Pacific Gas and Electric Corp., joined the litigation on EPA’s side, along with the American Wind Energy Association and Solar Energy Industries Association.

Describing themselves as “forward-thinking,” they say their investments in clean energy will be undermined if the rule is ultimately scrapped.

In a surprise move, Dominion Resources Inc. has also signaled some support for the rule. In a friend-of-the-court brief, the company said other utilities should value the plan’s “flexible, accommodating compliance framework” because it is “challenging but ultimately manageable for regulated power plants.”


E & E News: Almost 400K petitions urge rule critics to withdraw lawsuit

Speakers emphasized the environmental health risks associated with climate change, such as ground-level ozone pollution causing new cases of asthma and the spread of Lyme disease to new regions.

Physicians for Social Responsibility Executive Director Catherine Catherine Thomasson said the Obama administration’s regulatory framework is on strong legal footing.


U.S. News and World Report: Clean Power Plan has its day in court

The Clean Power Plan’s rollout last year won international acclaim from environmental advocates and national leaders who have long urged the U.S. – the world’s second-largest source of carbon emissions, behind China – to more aggressively confront climate change and reduce its emissions. By demonstrating the U.S. commitment to reining in its climate emissions, the measure also cleared the way for China to set its own emissions goals, a historic shift for two nations that had traditionally resisted strong climate action for fear of hampering economic growth. In a show of solidarity, the two nations formally committed to the Paris agreement during a meeting in China at the start of September. […]

Polls have found broad support among voters for the Clean Power Plan, including in states that are suing to kill the rule. About 61 of percent of adults in the U.S. said they backed the policy, and the same share also endorsed the policy in states challenging the measure, according to analyses released in November 2015 and April 2016 by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.