Nearly two dozen US states try to block Trump’s clean energy plan

The group filed a lawsuit alleging that the president’s plan doesn’t meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Emissions rise from a coal-fired power plant in Winfield, West Virginia
Led by New York State, a lawsuit filed in a federal appeals court aims to block US President Donald Trump's 'clean energy' plan [Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg]

A group of U.S. states and cities sued to block the Trump administration’s “clean energy” plan, alleging it is an industry giveaway that will reverse progress in addressing climate change and prolong the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the federal appeals court in Washington, sets up one of the biggest environmental clashes yet between Democrat-led states and President Donald Trump, an outspoken skeptic of climate-change science who regularly mocks the theory adopted by most of the world’s scientists.

At Trump’s request, the Environmental Protection Agency created the Affordable Clean Energy plan to replace a landmark initiative under former President Barack Obama that capped carbon dioxide emissions on many factories. In the suit, 22 states and seven municipalities seek a review of the policy by the appellate panel.

“Without significant course correction, we are careening towards a climate disaster,” New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is leading the coalition, said in a statement. “Rather than staying the course with policies aimed at fixing the problem and protecting people’s health, safety, and the environment, the Trump Administration repealed the Clean Power Plan and replaced it with this ‘Dirty Power’ rule.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the suit alleges that the EPA is violating the agency’s duty under the Clean Air Act and that Trump’s proposed rule is “arbitrary and capricious.”

“His fossil fuel protection plan fails everyone who stands for cleaner air,” Becerra said in a statement. “And it fails our economy, which depends on clean energy now more than ever.” 

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the administration’s new rule would enable existing coal-fired power plants to operate indefinitely without requiring them to use key technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican whose state is one of the biggest U.S. coal producers, said the lawsuit is doomed to fail because Democrats are misinterpreting the requirements of the Clean Air Act.

“Neither it nor the Constitution allow the EPA to serve as a central energy planning authority,” Morrisey said in an emailed statement.

An EPA spokesman declined to comment on pending litigation, but said the agency worked diligently “to ensure we produced a solid rule that we believe will be upheld in the courts, unlike the previous administration’s Clean Power Plan.” 

Like a proposal released last October, the EPA’s final rule gives U.S. states wide latitude to design their own plans for paring carbon dioxide emissions at power plants. The effort fulfilled Trump’s campaign pledge to rip up the Clean Power Plan and dovetails with his administration’s retreat from a global fight against climate change.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has already started a legal effort to back Trump in the fight by seeking court permission to participate in a suit filed earlier by the American Lung Association.

Obama’s Clean Power Plan had been prevented from going into effect by previous litigation. The U.S. Supreme Court put off the initiative in February 2016, amid legal challenges from opponents who said the EPA had overstepped its authority. The Clean Power Plan was designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 32% from 2005 levels by 2030.

The states argue Trump’s new rule doesn’t meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions and therefore violates the EPA’s duty under the Clean Air Act to address carbon pollution from power plants. They also say the new policy runs afoul of Congress’s intent for the EPA to address air pollution by artificially narrowing the agency’s authority under the Clean Air Act.

“Climate change is real,” said William Tong, the attorney general of Connecticut. “If we do nothing to curb our reliance on fossil fuels we are dooming future generations and our planet.”

Source: Bloomberg