Why 27 states are fighting federal clean air goals, but meeting them anyway

If the federal 'Clean Power Plan' were to be struck down, it would become more difficult for the US, one of the world’s largest emitters of harmful greenhouse gases, to meet its emissions reduction goals.

Travis Hartman/Reuters
The so-called 'Clean Power Plan' has set aggressive carbon dioxide reduction rules for the US power sector, with the first milestone in 2024 and the final target in 2030. Twenty-seven states have sued the Environmental Protection Agency to block the plan, though many are on track to meet its goals.

Next week, the D.C. Circuit Court is scheduled to hear an appeal from 27 states claiming the Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its bounds with regulations that seek to reduce American power plant carbon emissions by a third by 2030.

The states, which are run predominantly by Republican governors, argue President Obama’s so-called “Clean Power Plan” imposes an undue burden. But a majority of them are on track to hit the prescribed targets anyway.

“It’s a great sign that the market has already shifted and people are invested in the newer technologies, even while we are in litigation,” Gina McCarthy, the EPA administrator, told Reuters, noting the agency has seen carbon reductions earlier than anticipated.

The states argue, however, that their case is less about the end goal than it is about the means and manner by which the federal government sought to achieve it.

“We don’t have anything against clean air,” Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman told Reuters. “That really doesn’t factor into my decision to say the federal government has gone beyond its legal authority.”

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt described Mr. Obama’s plan as a form of federal “coercion and commandeering,” and he said his state should have “sovereignty to make decisions for its own markets.”

Colorado and Oklahoma are both among the 21 plaintiff states already expected to comply with the plan’s 2030 emissions targets.

This used to be a bipartisan issue,” Obama told an audience at Georgetown University on a hot summer day in 2013, when he announced plans to have the EPA draft carbon standards for American power plants.

“We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury and sulfur and arsenic in our air or our water, but power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air for free,” Obama said. “That’s not right, that’s not safe, and it needs to stop.”

The White House finalized its plan last year as a key component of US commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement. But the US Supreme Court halted implementation of the rule, pending resolution of the states’ litigation.

A three-judge panel had been scheduled to hear the case in June, but whichever side lost was expected to appeal, so the Circuit Court opted to hear the case “en banc.” By using its discretion to skip a step, the appellate judges could shave months off the time that passes before this case lands at the Supreme Court, as The Christian Science Monitor reported in May.

If the plan were to be struck down, it would become more difficult for the United States, one of the world’s largest emitters of harmful greenhouse gasses, to meet its carbon-cutting goals.

The EPA has expressed confidence that it will prevail in court “because the rule rests on strong scientific and legal foundations.”

Regardless of the court’s decision, American energy policy is sure to maintain its political charge, with Republicans overwhelmingly opposed to the Democratic administration’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

“When I ran for office, I promised I would do everything in my power to protect coal miners’ jobs,” West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said in a statement. “I have followed through on that promise.”

Material from Reuters was used in this report.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Why 27 states are fighting federal clean air goals, but meeting them anyway
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/2016/0919/Why-27-states-are-fighting-federal-clean-air-goals-but-meeting-them-anyway
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe