Battle lines drawn as Senate panel, 16 state coalition line up against Clean Power Plan
- West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, leading a 16-state coalition, sent a letter to the EPA Wednesday formally requesting that the agency suspend its just-released Clean Power Plan until litigation on the regulatory package is complete.
- The same day, the Senate Environment and Public Works committee passed a bill to prevent the EPA from finalizing its regulations, which seek to cut carbon emissions from the power sector 32% by 2030. The nine Democrats on the committee boycotted the vote, so it passed 11-0 with only GOP support.
- Neither action is expected to have an immediate impact on the regulatory package. President Obama has promised to veto any legislation threatening the Clean Power Plan, and the state coalition will likely need a federal court to put a stay on the regulatory package in order to get it delayed.
Coal-reliant states, conservative politicians and fossil fuel allies have wasted no time drawing the battle lines on the Clean Power Plan. While the finalized plan was released only on Monday, Morrisey and his allies were in the courts long before that, arguing that the proposed plan, released last June, was already exacting costs on his and other states.
The D.C. Circuit Court rebuffed him in June, saying that the state group must wait for the final plan to be released before it can be challenged in court. Now that it's out there, the West Virginia AG was quick to restart his challenge to the rule, asking the EPA to suspend it until his and other lawsuits are resolved.
“This request is a necessary first step and prerequisite to confronting this illegal power grab by the Obama administration and EPA,” Morrisey said in a statement. “These regulations, if allowed to proceed, will do serious harm to West Virginia and the U.S. economy, and that is why we are taking quick action to bring this process to a halt.”
The letter calls on the EPA to respond by Friday, but it is unlikely to delay the plan. Morrisey's best chance for that to happen would be if a federal court put a stay on the regulation while it winds its way through the courts. Most observers expect a Supreme Court case on the Clean Power Plan, although it could still be years away.
On the senate side, a GOP-only group from the energy committee passed a bill that would make it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for the EPA to implement the regulations. Democrats walked out of the committee meeting earlier, The Hill reports, due to a disagreement over an unrelated pesticide bill. That move denied the Republicans quorum for a while, but they were able to regain it to pass the bill 11-0, with no Democrats.
The vote was reportedly hastily arranged to squeeze it in before the August recess. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), one of the plan's most strident critics, has indicated he is keen to have a floor vote on the bill soon after the senate reconvenes.
In June, the House passed another bill aimed at the Clean Power Plan — The Ratepayer Protection Act — which would allow states to opt out of compliance with the regulations. The president is expected to veto both bills, should they reach his desk.
The coal industry was quick to respond to the finalized regulations as well. Murray Energy announced earlier this week it would file five separate lawsuits challenging the Clean Power Plan.
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