Obama, EPA Defend Clean Power Plan Against States’ Challenge

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The Obama administration has called a multistate effort to delay its 15-year plan to reduce carbon emissions “premature” and “unwarranted.”

The states face no irreparable harm from the deadlines proposed in the Clean Power Plan, the government said in court papers filed on Monday.

The new regulations, announced by the administration and the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month, aim to slow climate change by dropping U.S. power plant carbon dioxide emissions 32 percent below their 2005 levels by 2030.

Fifteen states, led by West Virginia, asked a federal court in Washington to issue an order delaying deadlines for submission of their plans to reach that objective. The new regulations give the EPA authority to impose its own regime on states that fail to comply.

The Clean Power Plan is one of three EPA initiatives under fire in multistate lawsuits filed in recent weeks. A North Dakota federal judge last week put on hold rules meant to determine what waterways are subject to federal oversight. States are also fighting new measures governing power plant emissions.

Coal Reliance

While the first emissions reductions required by the Clean Power initiative don’t take effect until 2022, state officials maintain they need to start planning now to meet those targets.

They also contend reducing reliance on coal -- the most carbon-intensive fuel -- will drive up electricity rates and threaten power grid reliability.

In its filing today, the U.S. said the new regulations won’t take effect until 60 days after they’re published in the Federal Register, which has not yet occurred.

“Although the Rule instructs the states to submit plans to implement those standards, and imposes a September 2016 deadline for the submission of a state plan, a state may obtain a two-year extension of that deadline by submitting, by that same date, a minimal initial submittal,” the government said.

The filing follows South Carolina’s request to join the case on the states’ behalf. The court hasn’t yet ruled on that petition.

The case is In re State of West Virginia v. EPA, 15-1277, U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia (Washington).