Author Archives: Tomas Carbonell

Experts Agree: The Clean Power Plan has a Rock Solid Legal and Technical Foundation

rp_Gavel_iStock000003633182Medium1-300x199-300x199-300x199.jpgAn extraordinarily broad coalition of states, cities, leading companies, members of Congress, medical associations, consumer and ratepayer experts, and organizations from across the country underscored their support for the Clean Power Plan earlier this month, filing a host of legal briefs in court to defend the Plan against attacks by major polluters.

As EDF’s president Fred Krupp noted, the breadth and rigor of these filings are a powerful demonstration of the “unstoppable momentum for climate action in America.” They underscore the huge stakes for our public health and economic well-being as the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit considers legal challenges to the first limits on emissions of carbon pollution from existing power plants – the nation’s largest source of climate-destabilizing carbon emissions.

This broad coalition of support was especially compelling due to the tremendous experts with deep experience who filed briefs addressing the legally and technically solid foundation of the Clean Power Plan and its strong anchor in precedent.

In this post, I highlight just a few of these expert briefs, and look at how they reinforce the robust case for the Clean Power Plan.

(EDF has compiled all of the briefs filed in the case – you can read them here)

Former EPA Administrators under Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush

Support for the Clean Power Plan’s legal approach was emphasized by two tested experts — former Republican Administrators of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who have extensive firsthand experience implementing the Clean Air Act.

William Ruckelshaus was appointed by President Nixon to serve as the first EPA Administrator and was subsequently appointed to serve as Administrator by President Reagan. William Reilly was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to serve as the seventh EPA Administrator.

Based on their own tremendous experience, the Administrators forcefully explained that the Clean Power Plan is “the very kind of pollution control program” that they “endorsed during their service at EPA”:

The Plan is a pragmatic, flexible, and cost-effective pollution control program, which properly respects State sovereignty by affording States substantial authority and latitude to decide whether and how best to administer its provisions. The Clean Power Plan also falls well within the bounds of an Administrator’s authority to embrace reasonable interpretations of broadly worded statutory language to address unforeseen problems without the need to resort to congressional amendment of current law. Finally, the Clean Power Plan’s careful consideration of the emissions-reduction potential available on the modern interconnected electricity grids, and specifically the Agency’s endorsement of fuel switching among other pollution control techniques, falls squarely within EPA’s purview as the nation’s pollution regulator.  (Administrators’ Brief at page1, emphasis added)

As their brief notes, Administrators Ruckelshaus and Reilly:

[A]re familiar with, and implemented, many of the Clean Air Act provisions centrally relevant to this case [and] responded to similarly consequential regulatory challenges under the Clean Air Act and other federal environmental laws. (Administrators’ Brief at page 3)

Key Authors of the Clean Air Act

This theme — emphasizing the Clean Air Act’s compelling legal basis for the Clean Power Plan — is echoed in a separate amicus brief filed by Leon Billings and Thomas Jorling, two former Congressional staffers who “are widely recognized as ‘architects’” of the Clean Air Act. (Clean Air Act Experts’ Brief at page 3) 

As these experts explain:

[The Clean Air] Act was intended to create a comprehensive framework empowering the federal and state governments to regulate emissions of any and all air pollutants that harm human health and the environment … [The Clean Power Plan] furthers the intent underlying the Act’s comprehensive framework and is an appropriate and intended exercise of [EPA’s] authority under the Act. (Clean Air Act Experts’ Brief at pages 3 and 4, emphasis added)

Leading Experts on the Operation of the Electric Grid

The Clean Power Plan is firmly based in the realities of the modern power sector and consistent with current industry trends and practices, according to a separate brief by several nationally-known experts on the operation of the electric grid.

As these experts explain:

The Rule’s design is eminently sensible: it reflects the regional nature of the power system, facilitates familiar compliance approaches such as emissions trading, and gradually accelerates industry trends already underway, as aging coal-fired units are replaced with cheaper, cleaner natural gas and renewable energy generation … [The grid experts] believe that the Rule is consistent with the grids’ twin aims: power reliability and affordability for all consumers. Petitioners’ claims that the Rule will result in grid “restructuring,” “reliability problems,” and other dire consequences are unfounded, and stem from fundamental misunderstandings, or misrepresentations, of how the grids respond to pollution controls. (Grid Experts’ Brief at pages 2 and 3, emphasis added)

Sixteen Former State Energy and Environmental Officials from States Including Texas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Indiana

Sixteen former state officials emphasized that the emission reduction targets in the Clean Power Plan are eminently achievable and consistent with current policies and investment plans at the state level:

As a result of market forces and state efforts to support energy efficiency, renewable energy, and emissions trading programs, many states already have or can easily achieve CPP emission targets.(Former State Officials’ Brief at page 9, emphasis added)

The former state officials’ brief also explains that the Clean Power Plan respects and preserves traditional state authority over energy policy.  Among other things, the brief describes how the Clean Power Plan provides each state with extensive flexibility to adopt solutions that are appropriate for local needs and priorities, can readily be implemented through familiar emissions management programs that are in widespread use in the power sector, and have been applied by dozens of states:

The CPP’s flexible approach offers states the opportunity to choose options that best meet their energy, environmental, and economic objectives …The CPP does not change the states’ role in regulating the power sector … By design, the CPP respects and preserves the fundamental roles of grid operators and the jurisdiction of state regulatory bodies, including environmental agencies and Public Utility Commissions (PUC).  (Former State Officials’  Brief at pages 2, 3, and 4)

The Experts Agree

This strong support for the Clean Power Plan comes from a remarkable breadth of experts responsible for crafting and implementing our nation’s clean air laws, working to address important public health and environmental challenges within the cooperative federalism framework of the Clean Air Act,  and carrying out energy and environmental policy in the states — efforts that have led to dramatic declines in harmful air pollution in recent decades, all while America has maintained robust economic growth as well as reliable, affordable electricity supplies.

These experts agree — the Clean Power Plan is a vital next step in America’s successful efforts to combat air pollution and climate change. The legal and technical foundations of the Clean Power Plan are rock solid.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, EPA litgation, News, Policy| Comments are closed

EDF Joins Broad Coalition to File Vigorous Defense of the Clean Power Plan

rp_scales_of_justice-300x280.pngThis week a broad coalition of public health and environmental organizations, including EDF,  submitted a brief in support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

As required by the Clean Air Act, the Clean Power Plan establishes the first national limits on carbon dioxide from existing fossil-fuel fired power plants – the nation’s single largest source of this harmful pollution. The Clean Power Plan provides eminently achievable targets for carbon pollution reduction that phase in gradually from 2022 to 2030, and it offers states and power companies tremendous flexibility to determine how best to meet those targets.

Unfortunately, opponents of climate progress have been waging a relentless litigation campaign to overturn these urgently-needed and reasonable standards – a campaign that began by filing lawsuits in multiple courts before EPA had even finalized the Clean Power Plan.

Now, the D.C. Circuit is poised to consider the legal merits of the Clean Power Plan – the first time any court has considered the case on its merits.

The brief filed by the environmental and public health coalition (including EDF), which represents millions of Americans around the country, adds to EPA’s own powerful defense.

Here, we provide a brief overview of the major points in our coalition’s brief. 

The Urgent Need to Address Carbon Pollution

The opening paragraph of the brief emphasizes the critical stakes in this litigation —and the urgent need to address harmful pollution from existing power plants that is threatening public health and welfare:

Fossil fuel-fired power plants are the country’s largest sources of carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution, exceeding even the “enormous quantity” emitted by the transportation sector … That pollution is destabilizing the climate that supports human civilization and all life, posing a dire threat to public health and welfare. Higher temperatures worsen deadly heatwaves, promote the spread of insect-borne diseases, intensify storms and flooding that cause death and injury and enormous property damage, and deepen droughts that threaten crops and water supplies. These harmful impacts are already occurring in the United States, and they disproportionately affect children, the elderly, low-income populations, communities of color, and indigenous populations worldwide. (Brief, page 1)

The Clean Power Plan is Firmly Anchored in Our Nation’s Clean Air Laws

Our coalition's brief underscores recent Supreme Court precedent that unanimously found that the Clean Air Act “speaks directly” to the carbon pollution from existing power plants, and “delegate[s] to EPA the decision whether and how to regulate” those emissions. (Brief, page 1, quoting American Electric Power v. Connecticut, 131 S. Ct. 2527, 2530, 2538 (2011)

The brief also explains that the Clean Power Plan is a reasonable exercise of this authority, establishing “readily achievable” emission reduction targets that build on current industry trends and are based on the techniques the industry most commonly uses to reduce carbon pollution:

The [Clean Power Plan] is highly cost-effective, well-suited to the regulated industry, and accommodating of industry and state requests for compliance flexibility … the Rule reflects the predominant approach to reducing power plant CO2 emissions employed by companies and states across the country. The record shows that industry trends predating the Rule are driving cleaner electricity generation, moderating electricity demand, and reducing use of old, uneconomical coal plants…The Rule provides six years’ lead time before emission reduction requirements begin gradually phasing in, and the pace of CO2 reductions the Rule requires by 2030 is in line with the pace actually achieved by the industry in recent years. These readily achievable reductions are not too much to ask of an industry that contributes disproportionately to a grave public hazard. (Brief, pages 1 and 2)

And the brief demonstrates that the Clean Power Plan faithfully follows the language of the Clean Air Act, and draws on well-established regulatory approaches that have long been applied to the power sector and other industries:

The Rule is in keeping with a long line of power sector regulations that take account of the unique characteristics of the industry and its pollution … The Rule achieves its pollution-reducing objectives at reasonable cost using flexible measures that are already widely used in the power industry. EPA has employed such measures in many regulations both to set emission targets and to ease compliance. (Brief, pages 2 and 3)

Lastly, the brief takes apart opponents’ arguments that EPA is prohibited from regulating carbon dioxide emissions under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act — the same provision that the Supreme Court unanimously found “speaks directly” to such regulation:

After lengthy attacks on how EPA applied [section 111(d)], Petitioners contend the agency may not use that section at all, because EPA previously regulated different pollutants — mercury and other hazardous air pollutants (“HAPs”) — under a different section of the Act … This bizarre proposition is like exempting restaurants from food handling requirements because they are subject to the fire code. The Clean Air Act does not work that way. (Brief, page 20)

The Broad Coalition Supporting the Clean Power Plan

The coalition brief was submitted to the court by the American Lung Association, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Clean Air Council, the Clean Air Task Force, Clean Wisconsin, the Conservation Law Foundation, Earthjustice, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, the Ohio Environmental Council, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Coal River Mountain Watch, the Kanawha Forest Coalition, the Mon Valley Clean Air Coalition, and Keepers of the Mountains Foundation.

In addition to the health and environmental brief, other parties supporting EPA – including a coalition of 18 States as well as Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, South Miami and others; a large group of power companies; and three advanced energy trade associations — also submitted their briefs in defense of the Clean Power Plan.  

What’s Next in the Clean Power Plan Litigation

Today and tomorrow, an extensive group of Clean Power Plan supporters will file amicus, or “friend of the court,” briefs.

A few examples of these amici include:

  • The National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and numerous individual cities and counties including major cities in states who are litigating to obstruct these safeguards such as Houston, Salt Lake City and Grand Rapids
  • Leading medical and public health associations, including the American Thoracic Society and the American Medical Association
  • Two former EPA Administrators, William Ruckelhaus and William Reilly, who served under Presidents Nixon, Reagan and George H.W. Bush
  • Numerous former senior state environmental and energy officials, including officials in states litigating against these standards
  • Technical experts on the nation’s electricity grid

Oral arguments will take place on June 2 before a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court.

Click here to find more information about the Clean Power Plan, including all legal briefs

Posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, EPA litgation, News, Policy| Comments are closed

A Big Week in Court for the Clean Power Plan: Defenders of the Historic Measure File Briefs

source: Flickr

source: Flickr

This is a big week for those of us fighting to protect the Clean Power Plan in court.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is preparing to hear arguments on the merits of the historic measure to reduce climate pollution and protect public health. Opponents are challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plan, and they won an emergency stay from the Supreme Court – but no court has yet heard the case on its merits. The merits are being briefed now before the D.C. Circuit Court, which will hold oral argument on June 2nd.

Supporters of the Clean Power Plan file briefs with the D.C. Circuit Court this week.

EPA filed its response to challengers today, writing:

The [Clean Power Plan] will secure critically important reductions in carbon dioxide (“CO2”) emissions from what are by far the largest emitters in the United States—fossil-fuel-fired power plants. CO2 and other heat-trapping greenhouse-gas emissions pose a monumental threat to Americans’ health and welfare by driving long-lasting changes in our climate, leading to an array of severe negative effects, which will worsen over time. These effects include rising sea levels that could flood coastal population centers; increasingly frequent and intense weather events such as storms, heat waves, and droughts; impaired air and water quality; shrinking water supplies; the spread of infectious disease; species extinction; and national security threats …

The Clean Air Act … provides the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) well-established authority to abate threats to public health and welfare by limiting the amount of air pollution that power plants pump into the atmosphere. For decades, a host of CAA regulatory programs have limited various pollutants emitted by these plants …

This critically important Rule marks a significant step forward in addressing the Nation’s most urgent environmental threat. Fossil-fuel-fired power plants are, far and away, the largest stationary sources of CO2 pollution, and no meaningful effort to abate climate change can fail to address them. EPA’s authority and responsibility under Section 111(d) to control this pollution is well-established and was central to the Supreme Court’s holding in AEP that ‘the [CAA] and the EPA actions it authorizes displace any federal common-law right to seek abatement of [CO2] emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants.’ 564 U.S. at 424. EPA has properly performed its Congressionally assigned task to limit this pollution …

The [Clean Power Plan] reflects the eminently reasonable exercise of EPA’s recognized statutory authority. It will achieve cost-effective CO2 reductions from an industry that has already demonstrated its ability to comply with robust pollution-control standards through the same measures and flexible approaches. The Rule fulfills both the letter and spirit of Congress’s direction in the Act, and the petitions should be denied. (Pages 1, 3 and 25; Read the full brief here)

Environmental Defense Fund is a party to the case and will file a brief in support of the Clean Power Plan tomorrow, along with a broad and diverse coalition that includes numerous states, cities, power companies, clean energy companies, public health and medical associations, and environmental organizations.

A wide range of supporters will file amicus, or “friend of the court,” briefs on Friday, April 1st.

The Clean Power Plan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) effort is the single biggest step America has ever taken to address the threat of climate change. It established the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from fossil-fuel fired power plants.

Fossil fuel-fired power plants are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, accounting for almost 40 percent of the country’s carbon pollution. There is enormous potential for the power sector to reduce pollution by shifting to clean sources of energy – with immense attendant benefits for the health of our families and communities, for creating jobs and strengthening the American economy, and for safeguarding our planet for our children.

EPA estimates that by 2030, the Clean Power Plan will:

  • Reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants 32 percent below 2005 levels
  • Save 3,600 lives annually
  • Prevent 90,000 childhood asthma attacks annually
  • Save American families almost $85 on their annual energy bill

The standards not only have huge benefits, they are eminently achievable. On a national basis, the power sector has already reduced carbon pollution emissions by 15 percent since 2005, a faster rate of reduction than the Clean Power Plan requires.

The Clean Power Plan gives states extensive flexibility to forge pollution-reduction strategies tailored to their individual needs and economic opportunities. In fact, many states around the country – including some that are suing to stop it — are already well on their way towards meeting the emission limits set forth in the Clean Power Plan.

History of the Case

Opponents of the Clean Power Plan, including major emitters of harmful carbon pollution, started suing to stop it before EPA even finished writing it. (Various courts threw out those lawsuits).

Opponents unsuccessfully petitioned the D.C. Circuit Court for an emergency stay. After two months of briefing and weeks of careful review, a unanimous panel of the D.C. Circuit Court denied motions to stay the Clean Power Plan on January 21st of this year. The court also set an expedited schedule to hear lawsuits on its merits.

In a highly unusual decision, the Supreme Court then overruled the unanimous D.C. Circuit Court panel by a 5-to-4 vote, and granted an emergency stay of the Clean Power Plan. However, the Supreme Court’s order was not a decision on the merits of the case. It put the Clean Power Plan on pause, but it did not rule against it.

Leading legal experts have explained that the stay does not require EPA to stop all work related to the Clean Power Plan, nor does it require postponement of compliance deadlines – see this well-reasoned piece by New York University Law School dean emeritus Richard Revesz.

The Clean Power Plan Rests on a Solid Legal and Technical Foundation

EPA’s authority – and responsibility – to regulate carbon pollution from the power sector under the Clean Air Act is well-established.

The Supreme Court has affirmed EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act three times since 2007. In American Electric Power v. Connecticut (2011), the Supreme Court specifically held that section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act – the provision that underlies the Clean Power Plan – “speaks directly” to the regulation of carbon pollution from existing power plants.

This conclusion was, in fact, stated before the Supreme Court by attorneys for some of the nation’s largest power companies – who declared unequivocally at oral argument that EPA has authority to regulate carbon pollution from the power sector under section 111(d):

We believe that the EPA can consider, as it's undertaking to do, regulating existing nonmodified sources under section 111 of the Clean Air Act, and that's the process that's engaged in now… Obviously, at the close of that process there could be APA challenges on a variety of grounds, but we do believe that they have the authority to consider standards under section 111. – (Counsel for petitioners in AEP v. Connecticut)

As required by the Clean Air Act, EPA also exhaustively analyzed the Clean Power Plan to ensure that it is based on the best available technical information and will not compromise the affordable, reliable supply of electricity. EPA’s review of the millions of comments it received on every aspect of the proposed version of the Clean Power Plan has only strengthened the technical foundations of the final rule.

The Clean Power Plan Has Extraordinarily Broad Support

A broad and diverse group of entities has been standing up for the Clean Power Plan in court, and are expected to be among an even larger group filing this week. Some of these groups, including EDF, are parties to the case. Others will be filing as friends of the court.

The list of supporters includes:

  • The National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the cities of Baltimore (MD), Coral Gables (FL), Grand Rapids (MI), Houston (TX), Jersey City (NJ), Los Angeles (CA), Minneapolis (MN), Portland (OR), Pinecrest (FL), Providence (RI), Salt Lake City (UT), San Francisco (CA), West Palm Beach (FL) and Boulder County (CO).
  • 18 states and seven other cities – including New YorkChicago, and Philadelphia.
  • Power Companies – including Calpine, National Grid Generation, Southern California Edison and the cities of Austin (TX) and Seattle (WA) which are engaging through their municipal power departments.
  • Leading medical and public health associations like the American Lung Association, the American Thoracic Society, and the American Medical Association.
  • The Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University Law School.
  • Two former EPA Administrators who served under Republican Presidents Nixon, Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
  • A number of former state energy and environmental regulators, including a former Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and former officials from several of the states whose attorney generals are challenging the rule.
  • A host of clean energy companies represented by Advanced Energy Economy and the national wind and solar associations, on behalf of America’s $200 billion clean energy industry.

States and Power Companies are Moving Ahead to Cut Dangerous Carbon Pollution

After the Supreme Court’s unprecedented decision to stay the Clean Power Plan, many states and power companies are continuing to expeditiously move forward with compliance planning and stakeholder engagement.

More than twenty states across the country – both states that oppose the Clean Power Plan and states that are strongly supportive — have indicated they are going to continue forward with the specifics of compliance planning, or have indicated they will stay on course to meet emissions reductions obligations. For example:

Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment said:

[I]it is prudent… to move forward during the litigation to ensure that the state is not left at a disadvantage… because the Supreme Court did not say whether the stay would change the rule’s compliance deadlines, Colorado could lose valuable time if it delays its work on the state plan and the rule is ultimately upheld.

New Mexico’s Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn said in a statement:

[D]espite capricious political winds, the New Mexico Environment Department remains committed to taking meaningful action to reduce greenhouse gases by a projected 5.7 million tons by the end of 2017.

South Carolina has also indicated it expects to continue work to decarbonize the state's power industry, an effort which began two years ago.

Power companies across the country echo these sentiments, with many clearly recognizing that it is high-risk strategy for states to put down their pencils. In addition to creating unnecessary regulatory risk for companies making investment decisions, many companies are committed to moving forward with emissions reduction strategies.

American Electric Power, an electricity provider and one of the country’s top coal users, says the court case:

[D]oesn’t change our focus on the diversification of our generation fleet, [and]  those diversification plans include more natural gas and renewables.

The many and diverse supporters of the Clean Power Plan recognize that climate change is a threat to all of us, and that we must take action to address that threat. Allowing power plants to discharge unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into our air is a clear and present danger to public health, the environment and our economy, and we cannot allow it to continue. EDF is proud to be part of this vibrant group of supporters.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, EPA litgation, News, Policy| Comments are closed

A Growing Number of Experts Affirm the Strong Legal Basis for the Clean Power Plan

rp_Gavel_iStock000003633182Medium1-300x199-300x199.jpgSince it was enacted in 1970, the Clean Air Act has protected public health and dramatically reduced air pollution at the same time as the economy has grown by leaps and bounds.

Many of the major Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) actions that have been most vital to this progress were subject to hard-fought — and largely unsuccessful — legal challenges.

The Clean Power Plan, which establishes the nation’s first limits on carbon pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants, is no exception. Dozens of lawsuits challenging the Clean Power Plan have been filed since the rule was published in the Federal Register – and a large coalition of states and municipalities, public health and environmental organizations, leading power companies, and clean energy providers have moved to defend the Clean Power Plan against these challenges.

Fortunately, EPA has a long history of successfully defending its rules against legal attacks – and the Clean Power Plan is on similarly strong legal footing.

Leading law enforcement officials, former EPA officials from Administrations of both parties – including the Administrator and the General Counsel in President George H.W. Bush’s Administration — and prominent legal scholars have concluded that the Clean Power Plan is firmly within EPA’s long-standing authority under the Clean Air Act.

Statements on the Final Clean Power Plan:

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan is a critical step forward in responding to the threat of climate change. The rule is firmly grounded in science and the law. The rule incorporates successful strategies New York and other states have used to cut climate change pollution from power plants while maintaining electricity reliability, holding the line on utility bills, and growing our economies. We are committed to aggressively defending the Clean Power Plan to ensure progress is made in confronting climate change. — Attorneys General of New York, California, Connecticut , Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode             Island, Vermont, Washington, Massachusetts, Virginia, and the District of Columbia; attorneys for the cities of Boulder, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and South Miami; and the attorney for Broward County, Florida, A.G. Schneiderman Leads Coalition of 25 States, Cities and Counties in Defense of EPA’s Clean Power Plan, November 4, 2015

[The Clean Power Plan] is exactly what cooperative federalism looks like…It is the EPA recognizing the states’ leadership, giving states the opportunity to employ and use strategies that … are working. — Maura Healey, Attorney General of Massachusetts, Attorneys General Explain Why 18 States are Defending EPA's Clean Power Plan, SNL, November 4, 2015

The country needs to reduce CO2 from existing power plants which generate 40% of America's CO2. The rule is needed, and the courts we hope will recognize that it is on the right side of history. — William K. Reilly, former EPA Administrator under President George H.W. Bush, and William D. Ruckelshaus, former EPA administrator under Presidents Nixon and Reagan, Former EPA Administrators Reilly and Ruckelshaus Issues Statement Regarding the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, October 23, 2015

North Carolina's Clean Smokestacks Act, our renewable energy standard and other utilities, environmentalists, businesses and consumer advocates. Our state is in a great position to bring these and other stakeholders together once again to work with the EPA to devise our own plan to protect North Carolina's air and promote economic growth… I encourage the [North Carolina General Assembly] to avoid the path of litigation and instead work on a cooperative effort we can all be proud of. — Roy Cooper, Attorney General of North Carolina, Letter to leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly, Aug. 7, 2015

Opponents of the Clean Power Plan have already sued twice before to strike down this rule, only to have their challenges thrown out as premature. This time, judges will hear their arguments, but the arguments hold little legal merit. — Prof. Richard Revesz, New York University School of Law, and Denise Grab, Senior Attorney at the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law, Noise Trumps Logic in Clean Power Plan Lawsuits, The Hill, October 27, 2015

[T]he government is on solid legal footing to defend the Clean Power Plan. — Profs. Jody Freeman and Richard J. Lazarus, Harvard Law SchoolThe Biggest Risk to Obama's Climate Plan May Be Politics, Not the CourtsThe Guardian, August 5, 2015

In many of the air pollution programs, EPA is directed to consider some combination of the cost of compliance and the practicability of the means of compliance when setting standards…The [New Source Performance Standards and Clean Power Plan] fit well within these statutory parameters: they bring about net economic benefits, they promote cleaner air, and they can be achieved within the existing landscape of how electricity is generated and transmitted. — Prof. Emily Hammond, George Washington University Law School, Testimony before the Energy and Commerce Committee, U.S. House of Representatives, October 22, 2015

[T]he EPA stands an excellent chance of prevailing in this epic showdown. And for the good of the planet and the welfare of future generations, one can only hope it will. — Prof. Patrick Parenteau, Vermont Law School, The Clean Power Plan Will Survive: Part 2, Law360, September 29, 2015

Many experts have also concluded that requests for courts to block (or “stay”) the Clean Power Plan during the period of litigation are likely to fail.

Statements Refuting the Need for a Stay of the Clean Power Plan:

I think the deadlines [in the Clean Power Plan] are sufficiently far in the future that there's no need for a stay here, the court is certainly going to be able to decide this case before the deadlines. — Robert Percival, Robert F. Stanton Professor of Law and Director, Environmental Law Program, University of Maryland, Francis King Carey School of Law, EPA, Clean Power Plan Foes Gird For Court Fight, Law360, August 3, 2015

[T]he EPA’s rule includes generous compliance deadlines . . . Challengers will be hard-pressed to persuade anyone they merit a stay. — Profs. Jody Freeman and Richard J. Lazarus, Harvard Law SchoolThe Biggest Risk to Obama's Climate Plan May Be Politics, Not the CourtsThe Guardian, August 5, 2015

Experts have remarked on the Clean Power Plan’s bedrock legal authority throughout its creation – from when it was first proposed.

Statements on the Proposed Clean Power Plan:

The EPA has authority under the 1990 Clean Air Act, an authority affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court, to set these public health protections against carbon pollution. — Carol M. Browner, former EPA Administrator under President Bill Clinton, and Alex LaskeyWith New Power Plant Rules, Energy Efficiency Checks All the BoxesThe Hill, June 2, 2014

Critics of the [Clean Power Plan] say that President Obama is making an end run around Congress, stretching the law to achieve by executive action what he could not accomplish through the legislative branch. This is flat wrong. More than four decades ago, Congress expressed its clear desire to regulate pollution from power plants, in the form of the Clean Air Act. I know, because I worked on the legislation, including the key part of the act—Section 111—that the Obama administration is using to justify its move. — Leon Billings, former Chief of Staff to Sen. Edmund Muskie and staff director of the Senate Environment Subcommittee during the drafting of the Clean Air ActThe Obscure 1970 Compromise That Made Obama’s Climate Rules PossiblePolitico, June 2, 2014

Limiting Greenhouse Gas emissions from existing power plants is the next logical step after the Supreme Court and other courts have upheld EPA’s authority and obligation to address this issue. A system-wide approach provides needed flexibility and reduces costs, as well as encouraging investment in lower-emitting generation. EPA has wisely left the states a lot of discretion rather than mandating specific measures as some had wanted. — E. Donald Elliott, EPA General Counsel under President George H.W. BushObama’s Section 111d Plan Has Support From George H.W. Bush’s EPA General Counsel, Utility ExecutivesLegal Planet, June 1, 2014

[I]t is important to be clear here: the President is required to issue the rules, required by law and by the interpretation of the law by the highest Court in the land. — Prof. Ann Carlson, UCLA School of Law, Obama Has To Issue Climate Change Rules — The Law Says So, Talking Points Memo, May 30, 2014

Posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, EPA litgation, Policy| Comments are closed

A Look at the Strong Legal Foundation of the Clean Power Plan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will soon publish the Clean Power Plan in the Federal Register. The Clean Power Plan is a suite of historic Clean Air Act standards that will establish the first nationwide limits on carbon pollution from America’s fossil fuel-fired power plants.

Fossil fuel-fired power plants are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, accounting for almost 40 percent of the country’s carbon pollution. There is enormous potential for the power sector to reduce pollution by shifting to clean sources of energy – with immense benefits for the health of our families and communities, for creating jobs and strengthening the American economy, and for safeguarding our planet for our children. EPA projects that the Clean Power Plan will have total climate and public health benefits of up to $54 billion per year by 2030 – benefits that include saving up to 3,500 lives and avoiding 90,000 childhood asthma attacks each year.

These standards not only have huge benefits, they are eminently achievable. On a national basis, the power sector has already reduced carbon pollution emissions by 15 percent since 2005, a faster rate of reduction than the Clean Power Plan requires. Many states around the country are well on their way towards meeting the emission limits set forth in the Clean Power Plan, in large part due to policies and investment decisions that are already helping drive lower emissions. A recent analysis by EDF, for example, found that the state of Texas will achieve 88 percent of its Clean Power Plan target based solely on “business as usual” trends in the Texas power sector.

Like many recent Clean Air Act standards, the Clean Power Plan is likely to face a number of legal challenges from polluters and their allies who oppose reasonable limits on carbon pollution. A handful of premature legal challenges were filed before EPA even signed the final version the rule – challenges that were rejected by a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. A separate challenge brought by the State of Oklahoma was dismissed by an Oklahoma federal district court judge, and a related motion by Oklahoma to block the Clean Power Plan was denied by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. And after EPA finalized the Clean Power Plan in August, several states and a major coal producer unsuccessfully sued to block the implementation of the rule.

Although more legal challenges will surely come upon the rule’s publication, the Clean Power Plan rests on a solid legal foundation and is wholly consistent with past Clean Air Act rules addressing the power sector – as many of the nation’s leading legal experts have noted since the Clean Power Plan was first proposed, including the author of section 111(d), numerous state Attorneys General, and the EPA General Counsel in the Bush administration.

EPA Has Clear Authority to Regulate Carbon Pollution from the Power Sector

EPA’s authority – and responsibility – to regulate carbon pollution from the power sector under the Clean Air Act is well-established. The Supreme Court has affirmed EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act three times since 2007. In American Electric Power v. Connecticut (2011), the Supreme Court specifically held that section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act – the provision that underlies the Clean Power Plan – “speaks directly” to the regulation of carbon pollution from existing power plants.

This conclusion was, in fact, stated before the Supreme Court by attorneys for some of the nation’s largest power companies – who declared unequivocally at oral argument that EPA has authority to regulate carbon pollution from the power sector under section 111(d):

“We believe that the EPA can consider, as it's undertaking to do, regulating existing nonmodified sources under section 111 of the Clean Air Act, and that's the process that's engaged in now… Obviously, at the close of that process there could be APA challenges on a variety of grounds, but we do believe that they have the authority to consider standards under section 111.” – (Counsel for petitioners in AEP v. Connecticut)

In the lawsuits that were recently rejected by the D.C. Circuit court, coal companies and some states alleged that EPA is prohibited from regulating carbon pollution from the power sector – on the grounds that EPA is regulating mercury and other toxic pollutants from the power sector under a different section of the Clean Air Act. This “pick your poison” theory of the Clean Air Act not only ignores the Supreme Court’s ruling in AEP v. Connecticut, it rests on a selective and distorted reading of the law that ignores the Clean Air Act’s text, structure, and history.

The Clean Power Plan Rests on a Solid Legal and Technical Foundation

The Clean Power Plan is fully consistent with the “cooperative federalism” approach that EPA has applied under section 111(d) for nearly forty years, under which EPA issues minimum environmental standards that reflect the “best system of emission reduction” for existing sources, while giving states the opportunity to decide how best to meet those requirements through state plans.

In the Clean Power Plan, EPA has issued nationwide standards for carbon pollution from existing fossil fuel power plants – standards that are firmly grounded in proven, cost-effective technologies that power companies and states have already been successfully using to reduce carbon pollution, such as improving the efficiency of existing power plants and shifting generation to low or zero-emitting facilities. At the same time, the Clean Power Plan provides the states with tremendous flexibility in deciding how to achieve these targets – including the ability to use streamlined, highly cost-effective regulatory approaches similar to those used by EPA and the states under other successful Clean Air Act programs.

Opponents of the Clean Power Plan have made a host of hyperbolic claims about this common-sense approach, arguing that it amounts to a federal “takeover” of state energy policy and that it departs from the intent of the Clean Air Act. These claims are false.

Under EPA’s flexible approach, states can achieve the carbon pollution targets through streamlined, cost-effective air pollution regulations, such as emissions trading programs, that apply only to fossil fuel-fired power plants and that are compatible with a range of state energy policies. Ten states are already using such approaches to limit carbon pollution from power plants, and more than two dozen states are using such approaches to address sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from existing power plants under EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule – which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in April 2014 against vigorous legal challenges.

EPA’s approach comports with the language of section 111(d), reflects approaches that states and power companies are already using to reduce carbon pollution, and is wholly consistent with other Clean Air Act programs for the power sector.

As required by the Clean Air Act, EPA also exhaustively analyzed the Clean Power Plan to ensure that it is based on the best available technical information and will not compromise the affordable, reliable supply of electricity. EPA’s review of the millions of comments it received on every aspect of the proposed version of the Clean Power Plan has only strengthened the technical foundations of the final rule.

Legal Experts Confirm the Strong Legal Basis for the Clean Power Plan

Many of the nation’s leading law enforcement officials, former EPA officials, and prominent legal scholars have concluded that the Clean Power Plan is firmly within EPA’s long-standing authority under the Clean Air Act.

A few illustrative statements include:

  • “The Text, Structure, and History of the Clean Air Act Confirm EPA’s Authority to Regulate Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Power Plants Under Section 111(d).” — Attorneys General of the States of New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, in brief filed in Murray Energy Corp. v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 14-1112 (D.C. Cir. Dec. 23, 2014)
  • “The new rules set reasonable limits on emissions of climate change pollution from new and existing power plants and are firmly grounded in law.” — George Jepsen, Attorney General of Connecticut, Gov. Malloy, Attorney General Jepsen, Commissioner Klee Statements on EPA Rule on Pollution from Power Plants
  • “The EPA has authority under the 1990 Clean Air Act, an authority affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court, to set these public health protections against carbon pollution.” — Carol M. Browner, former EPA Administrator, and Alex Laskey, President & Founder, Opower, With New Power Plant Rules, Energy Efficiency Checks All the Boxes
  • “Limiting Greenhouse Gas emissions from existing power plants is the next logical step after the Supreme Court and other courts have upheld EPA’s authority and obligation to address this issue. A system-wide approach provides needed flexibility and reduces costs, as well as encouraging investment in lower-emitting generation. EPA has wisely left the states a lot of discretion rather than mandating specific measures as some had wanted.” — E. Donald Elliott, EPA General Counsel under President George H.W. Bush, Obama’s Section 111d Plan Has Support From George H.W. Bush’s EPA General Counsel, Utility Executives
  •  “There is just case law building on case law that says, [the Clean Power Plan] is perfectly constitutional.” — Jody Freeman, Archibald Cox Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, Harvard Law's Lazarus and Freeman discuss federal court Power Plan hearing, Tribe arguments
  • “Clean Air Act regulations of existing power plants implemented by presidents of both parties over the past quarter of a century have achieved vitally important protections for public health and the environment through regulatory tools carefully designed to minimize costs. By following in the footsteps of earlier rules, the Clean Power Plan could be similarly transformative. The claim that it is unprecedented and unconstitutional is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law.” — Richard Revesz, Dean Emeritus and Lawrence King Professor of Law, NYU School of Law, Obama’s professor on Clean Power Plan – Wrong on the facts and law
  •  “[T]he EPA stands an excellent chance of prevailing in this epic showdown. And for the good of the planet and the welfare of future generations, one can only hope it will.” — Patrick Parenteau, Professor, Vermont Law School, The Clean Power Plan Will Survive: Part 2
  •  “[I]t is important to be clear here: the President is required to issue the rules, required by law and by the interpretation of the law by the highest Court in the land.” — Ann Carlson, Shirley Shapiro Professor of Environmental Law, UCLA School of Law, Obama Has to Issue Climate Change Rules — The Law Says So

Many experts have also concluded that requests for courts to block (or “stay”) the Clean Power Plan during the period of litigation are likely to fail:

  • “I think the deadlines [in the Clean Power Plan] are sufficiently far in the future that there's no need for a stay here, the court is certainly going to be able to decide this case before the deadlines.” — Robert Percival, Robert F. Stanton Professor of Law and Director, Environmental Law Program, University of Maryland, Francis King Carey School of Law, EPA, Clean Power Plan Foes Gird For Court Fight
  • “[T]he EPA’s rule includes generous compliance deadlines . . . Challengers will be hard-pressed to persuade anyone they merit a stay.” Jody Freeman, Archibald Cox Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, and Richard Lazarus, Howard and Katherine Aibel Professor of Law, Harvard University, The Biggest Risk to Obama's Climate Plan May Be Politics, Not the Courts

EPA Has an Extensive Record of Success in Defending Clean Air Act Rules

Almost all of the major Clean Air Act rules that have so successfully protected human health and the environment in recent years have undergone intense legal challenges – and EPA has a great track record in defending these rules in the courts.

Consider these recent examples:

  • EPA v. EME Homer City Generation (U.S. Supreme Court, 2014) — In a major victory for EPA, the Supreme Court reversed a D.C. Circuit decision invalidating the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. In early 2015, the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule took effect in states across the Eastern United States – protecting millions of Americans from power sector emissions that contribute to harmful particulate matter and smog pollution.
  • Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA (U.S. Supreme Court, 2014) — The Supreme Court upheld EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act requiring that new and modified industrial facilities obtain permits limiting their emissions of greenhouse gases to reflect “best available control technology.” The Court did rule against EPA on the question of whether the “best available control technology” requirement applies to smaller facilities. However, EPA itself had concluded those requirements would pose serious practical problems and yield relatively small pollution control benefits.
  • Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA (D.C. Circuit, 2012) — The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld EPA’s science-based finding that climate pollution endangers public health and welfare, and EPA’s first generation of greenhouse gas emission standards for passenger vehicles. The Supreme Court declined to review either of these critical holdings, laying the groundwork for subsequent rules reducing greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles and medium and heavy duty trucks.
  • Delta Construction Co. v. EPA (D.C. Circuit, 2015) — The D.C. Circuit dismissed, on procedural grounds, multiple legal challenges to EPA’s first greenhouse gas standards for medium and heavy duty vehicles.
  • National Association of Manufacturers v. EPA (D.C. Circuit, 2014) — EPA fended off challenges to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter (better known as soot).

The health and environmental benefits of the Clean Power Plan will be invaluable. As EPA prepares for the inevitable legal attacks, it has a strong legal foundation and a track record of litigation success.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, EPA litgation, Policy| Comments are closed

Legal Experts Affirm the Strong Legal Basis for the Clean Power Plan

rp_Gavel_iStock000003633182Medium1-300x199.jpgLike other major Clean Air Act standards protecting our climate and public health, the Clean Power Plan will likely be subject to numerous legal attacks.

EPA has a long history of successfully defending its rules against such attacks – and the Clean Power Plan is on similarly strong legal footing.

Leading law enforcement officials, former EPA officials, and prominent legal scholars have concluded that the Clean Power Plan is firmly within EPA’s long-standing authority under the Clean Air Act:

Statements on the Final Clean Power Plan

We are in the process of reviewing the rules but fully anticipate standing with EPA to defend these necessary emission standards if they are challenged in court…The rules are also firmly grounded in the law. The Clean Air Act requires EPA to regulate emissions of climate change pollution from new and existing power plants. Furthermore, the rules set reasonable limits on these sources as a result of a multi-year stakeholder process that drew heavily on strategies states have used to successfully cut power plant emissions while growing our economies. — Attorneys General of New York, California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, the District of Columbia, and the Corporation Counsel of the City of New York, Letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, August 3, 2015

The new rules set reasonable limits on emissions of climate change pollution from new and existing power plants and are firmly grounded in law. My office stands ready to support and assist the EPA throughout the implementation of the plan, including in any legal challenges that may be filed in the courts. — George Jepsen, Attorney General of Connecticut, August 3, 2015

North Carolina's Clean Smokestacks Act, our renewable energy standard and other forward-thinking efforts were forged by collaboration among interested parties such as utilities, environmentalists, businesses and consumer advocates. Our state is in a great position to bring these and other stakeholders together once again to work with the EPA to devise our own plan to protect North Carolina's air and promote economic growth… I encourage the [North Carolina General Assembly] to avoid the path of litigation and instead work on a cooperative effort we can all be proud of. – Roy Cooper, Attorney General of North Carolina,letter to leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly, Aug. 7, 2015

[T]he government is on solid legal footing to defend the Clean Power Plan. — Profs. Jody Freeman and Richard J. Lazarus, Harvard Law School, The Biggest Risk to Obama's Climate Plan May Be Politics, Not the Courts, The Guardian, August 5, 2015

[T]here is no question that in the final plan, the government has shored up its legal vulnerabilities and put itself in a far better position to defend its ambitious rule. — Prof. Jody Freeman, Harvard Law School,How Obama Plans to Beat His Climate Critics, Politico, August 3, 2015

Every president since [the late 1980s], whether a Democrat or Republican, has taken meaningful steps to slash pollution from existing plants, in most cases relying not on new legislation but on previously neglected provisions of the Clean Air Act itself… The Clean Power Plan follows in this bipartisan tradition… [T]he rule is the latest chapter in a decades-long effort to clean up our oldest, dirtiest power plants and at last fulfill the pledge that Congress made to the American people back in 1970: that the air we all breathe will be safe. — Prof. Richard Revesz and Jack Lienke, New York University School of Law, Obama Takes a Crucial Step on Climate Change, The New York Times, August 3, 2015

Statements on the Proposed Clean Power Plan

The EPA has authority under the 1990 Clean Air Act, an authority affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court, to set these public health protections against carbon pollution. — Carol M. Browner, former EPA Administrator under President Bill Clinton, and Alex Laskey, With New Power Plant Rules, Energy Efficiency Checks All the Boxes, The Hill, June 2, 2014

Critics of the [Clean Power Plan] say that President Obama is making an end run around Congress, stretching the law to achieve by executive action what he could not accomplish through the legislative branch. This is flat wrong. More than four decades ago, Congress expressed its clear desire to regulate pollution from power plants, in the form of the Clean Air Act. I know, because I worked on the legislation, including the key part of the act—Section 111—that the Obama administration is using to justify its move. — Leon Billings, former Chief of Staff to Sen. Edmund Muskie and staff director of the Senate Environment Subcommittee during the drafting of the Clean Air Act, The Obscure 1970 Compromise That Made Obama’s Climate Rules Possible, Politico, June 2, 2014

Limiting Greenhouse Gas emissions from existing power plants is the next logical step after the Supreme Court and other courts have upheld EPA’s authority and obligation to address this issue. A system-wide approach provides needed flexibility and reduces costs, as well as encouraging investment in lower-emitting generation. EPA has wisely left the states a lot of discretion rather than mandating specific measures as some had wanted. — E. Donald Elliott, EPA General Counsel under President George H.W. Bush, Obama’s Section 111d Plan Has Support From George H.W. Bush’s EPA General Counsel, Utility Executives, Legal Planet, June 1, 2014

[I]t is important to be clear here: the President is required to issue the rules, required by law and by the interpretation of the law by the highest Court in the land. — Prof. Ann Carlson, UCLA School of Law, Obama Has To Issue Climate Change Rules — The Law Says So,Talking Points Memo, May 30, 2014

Posted in Clean Power Plan, EPA litgation, News| Comments are closed
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