- Federal regulators have filed their first defense of the Clean Power Plan in a court case addressing the law's merits, arguing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that it has the authority to limit emissions from existing power plants.
- CO2 and other greenhouse gases pose a "monumental threat to Americans’ health and welfare," EPA said, and the new limitations would "secure critically important reductions."
- The Clean Power Plan is targeting a 32% reduction in carbon emissions from the power sector nationwide by 2030, but the U.S. Supreme Court has delayed the rule's implementation while the D.C. Circuit court considers challenges.
- Opponents of the rule say the EPA is overstepping its authority under the Clean Air Act, and that the rule will hurt state economies still heavily tied to coal-fired generation.
The EPA yesterday filed a 200-page merit brief defending its proposal to regulate existing power plants, saying climate change is a "monumental threat" and that the agency is within its authority to take action.
“The [Clean Power Plan] will secure critically important reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from what are by far the largest emitters in the United States — fossil-fuel-fired power plants," EPA said. "CO2 and other heat-trapping greenhouse-gas emissions pose a monumental threat to Americans’ health and welfare by driving long-lasting changes in our climate, leading to an array of severe negative effects, which will worsen over time."
Opponents of the rule – which the EPA says will save 3,600 lives annually, prevent 90,000 child asthma attacks each year and save families almost $85 a year in energy bills – have been attacking the Clean Power Plan since before the rule was finalized
in August 2015.
Aside from debate over greenhouse gases, climate change and the shift to renewable energy, the rule's critics argue the EPA lacks authority to regulate plants
as that is the jurisdiction of states. Federal officials, however, say the Clean Air Act provides "well-established authority" to address public health threats.
"For decades, a host of CAA regulatory programs have limited various pollutants emitted by these plants," the government argued. “The [Clean Power Plan] reflects the eminently reasonable exercise of EPA’s recognized statutory authority. It will achieve cost-effective CO2 reductions from an industry that has already demonstrated its ability to comply with robust pollution-control standards through the same measures and flexible approaches."
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and other parties to the case are expected to file briefs today.
“EPA’s brief forcefully demonstrates that the Clean Power Plan complies with our nation’s clean air laws and is anchored in a robust factual record,” Tomás Carbonell, EDF’s director of regulatory policy and senior attorney, said in a statement. “The Clean Power Plan is vital to protecting public health and providing a safer climate for our children, and it will make our economy stronger. We look forward to adding our brief to the powerful defense that EPA filed today, together with a broad and diverse coalition of allies supporting these essential standards.”
Even if the rule is ultimately upheld, the Supreme Court's stay on implementation of the rule could significantly impact compliance timelines for states and utilities. As it stands, the EPA will be unable to enforce its September deadline for states to submit compliance plans or request an extension. Without enforcement from the EPA, states may have to decide on their own whether to comply.
The EPA will continue to work with states on compliance plans while litigation goes forward, according to the White House.
Other supporters of the EPA's plan will file amicus briefs this Friday. Oral arguments will occur on June 2.