States' lawsuit puts Obama climate change agenda in jeopardy

Some 23 states are trying to block the White House's plan to slash power plant carbon dioxide emissions. Will the new EPA rule survive litigation?

Susan Walsh/AP
President Obama speaks about his Clean Power Plan, Aug. 3, in the East Room at the White House in Washington. Twenty-three states have filed a petition to block the president's proposed plan slash power plant carbon dioxide emissions on Friday.

Twenty-three states on Friday petitioned a US appeals court to block the White House’s plan to slash power plant carbon dioxide emissions, a key part of the Obama administration’s climate change agenda.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan is being challenged by states who say the federal Clean Air Act does not explicitly permit the agency to enact such reforms, ones which they say could have “devastating impacts” on their local economies.

The rule plans to lower the limit of power plant emissions, set in 2005, by 32 percent in the next 15 years.

"EPA claims to have sweeping power to enact such regulations based on a rarely-used provision of the Clean Air Act but such legal authority simply does not exist," said West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. West Virginia Texas, Ohio, and Florida are among the states that have asked the US District Court of Appeals to block the rule, despite it being unusual for the D.C. circuit court to grant such requests.

When the White House began enacting its first climate regulations, the court did not block them, but did block an EPA air regulation that limited pollution crossing state boundaries in 2011.

Fifteen states and two cities are also fighting to protect the climate plan, according to The Hill.

Susan Kasey-Lefkowitz, the Director of Programs for the Natural Resources Defense Council, argued in a Huffington Post blog that the plan has strong legal standing and public support:

Climate action is necessary. An attack on the Clean Power Plan is an attack on American businesses and communities. Too many people are in harm's way already. This summer hundreds of homes and businesses burned to the ground in Washington State's record-breaking fires. Twenty people died in flash floods in Utah last month. And two September storms dumped 8 inches of rain each on Northeastern communities. This is what climate change looks like in America.

The Clean Power Plan will reduce these threats and put our communities on a healthier path.

Scientific American reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will challenge the EPA rules next week, hosting votes that are “calculated to embarrass” the White House before climate talks in Paris. While a bill gutting the plan could pass Congress, it is unlikely to survive a presidential veto.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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