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Industry News

U.S. Supreme Court Halts the EPA's Clean Power Plan

LCG, February 10, 2016--The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, put a hold on the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan (CPP), a regulation designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 32 percent by 2030. Those opposed to the CPP say the agency is acting beyond its authority and interfering with states' rights.

The Supreme Court's order yesterday stops the rule until the Washington D.C. Circuit completes its review and the Supreme Court determines whether or not to hear new appeals. In January, the D.C. Circuit declined to stay the rule before it hears oral arguments in the case in June.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, along with officials from 30 other states, told the Supreme Court in a recent filing of their case against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that their case is extraordinary and that the agency's CPP would impose the largest burden states have ever been asked to carry. Yesterday he stated, "We are thrilled that the Supreme Court realized the rule's immediate impact and froze its implementation, protecting workers and saving countless dollars as our fight against its legality continues."

The court action yesterday "confirms that the legal justification for the Clean Power Plan should be examined by the courts before scarce state and private resources are used to develop state plans," said a spokeswoman for American Electric Power (AEP) Co., one of the biggest coal users among utilities.

The general counsel for Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), which is a party to the case, stated, "The Clean Power Plan has a firm anchor in our nation's clean-air laws and a strong scientific record, and we look forward to presenting our case on the merits in the courts."

"The States do not ask for this Court's intervention lightly. But this case is truly extraordinary, given that the Power Plan imposes the largest burden the States have ever been asked by EPA to carry, on the basis of a rule that is flatly contrary to this Court's recent case law when dealing with the same agency, and the same pollutants," the States wrote. "And EPA is doing this in the shadow of its own brazen abuse of its authority, where it bragged on its public blog that it had rendered this Court's decision in the States' favor an effective nullity.

In addition to West Virginia and Texas, the other states seeking a stay from the Supreme Court are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming, along with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, Mississippi Public Service Commission, North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.

The schedule impact of the Supreme Court ruling is unknown. The EPA had called for states to submit their emission reduction plans or request a two-year extension in early September of this year, with the actual state implementation targeting 2020. With the ruling, the CPP will incur a delay of at least until a federal appeals court rules on the plan, perhaps in the latter half of this year. If those opposing the CPP lose in that court, then the delay would continue while they sought Supreme Court review.
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