Selected category: EPA litgation

The Broad and Diverse Coalition That Is Supporting the Clean Power Plan in Court

Minneapolis -- one of 14 cities and counties that just announced legal support for the Clean Power Plan.

Minneapolis — one of 14 cities and counties that just announced legal support for the Clean Power Plan. Source Flickr/m01229.

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) all filed a motion with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to help defend the Clean Power Plan as amici curiae  — or “friends of the court.” (The news was announced by the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University Law School – you can read their press release here.)

According to the motion filed by the cities:

The Local Government Coalition and its member national associations and local governments seek to participate as amici curiae to support their common view that the Clean Power Plan is a valid exercise of EPA’s authority and represents a reasonable interpretation of the ‘best system of emissions reduction’ standard established under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. (Page 8)

That impressive group of cities joins a tremendously broad group of entities that are standing up for the Clean Power Plan. Some of these groups, including EDF, are parties to the case; others have filed as friends of the court or have filed supportive declarations:

  • 18 states and seven other cities – including New YorkChicago, and Philadelphia – already filed with the court in support of these vital clean air safeguards.
  • Power Companies – including Calpine, NextEra, National Grid Generation and many others– are supporting the Clean Power Plan, and the cities of Austin (TX) and Seattle (WA) are joining in that support through their municipal power departments.
  • Public health groups like the American Lung 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, and environmental advocates – including EDF – are showing their support as well.
  • A host of clean energy companies represented by Advanced Energy Economy and the national wind and solar associations weighed in on behalf of America’s $200 billion clean energy industry.
  • Google, a major power consumer, filed a declaration in support for the Clean Power Plan, highlighting that it reinforces the company’s conclusion that purchasing renewable energy makes “good business sense” because of its “low and stable marginal cost.”
  • More than six dozen experts have filed declarations with the court in support of the Clean Power Plan, including: former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; Larry Soward, who led environmental policy under Texas Governor Rick Perry; Sue Tierney of Analysis Group, a leading energy and environmental expert; former FERC Chairmen from both sides of the aisle, including Joseph Kelliher who served under President George W. Bush; and the Rev. Sally Bingham of Interfaith Power & Light, and many others. (The declarations in support of the Clean Power Plan can be found here.)
  • The National Nurses Union, our country’s largest professional association of registered nurses, highlighted the real world impacts of climate change and air pollution on community health, from asthma attacks to natural disasters
  • Ron Busby, head of the U.S. Black Chambers, underscored the economic opportunities and electricity bill savings that American communities can realize under the Clean Power Plan.

It’s no surprise that the Clean Power Plan is winning such support. 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 builds on our nation’s tremendous success in addressing soot and smog pollution from existing power plants, as well as our recent breakthrough progress in cutting greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks.

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 Clean Power Plan will accomplish all this while building on the economic growth and job creation we’re already experiencing from the ongoing expansion of cost-effective clean energy nationwide.

The Clean Power Plan also gives states extensive flexibility to forge pollution-reduction strategies tailored to their individual needs and economic opportunities.

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). Their litigation — brought before they had even reviewed the final standards on the merits — illuminated objections that are highly reflexive.

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.

(Read more about the Clean Power Plan, and find all the legal briefs in the case, on our website.)

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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

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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.

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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

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Oklahoma Court Rejects Yet Another Flawed Challenge to the Proposed Clean Power Plan

rp_scales_of_justice.pngThe Clean Power Plan has now won a second round in court – before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finished writing it.

The federal district court for the Northern District of Oklahoma rejected another premature challenge on Friday to the proposed standards for carbon pollution from existing fossil fuel power plants.

The first – a challenge brought by Murray Energy Corporation and several states, including Oklahoma – was dismissed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit just last month. In that decision, the D.C. Circuit court found petitioners’ attack on the Clean Power Plan was premature — relying on the plain text of the Clean Air Act, bedrock principles of administrative law, and (as the petitioners themselves acknowledged) the unbroken practice in the D.C. Circuit allowing challenges only to final agency actions.

This finality requirement is critically important to the integrity of the administrative process, ensuring the agency has an opportunity to consider and incorporate public input and that a reviewing court evaluates the agency’s final, carefully-determined course of action.

In last month’s decision, the D.C. Circuit noted that petitioners were “champing at the bit” to challenge the Clean Power Plan. True to form, the state of Oklahoma filed another challenge – pressing substantially similar claims to those already rejected by the D.C. Circuit, but this time seeking judicial review in Oklahoma federal district court.

If the challenges in the D.C. Circuit represented an attempted end run around the judicial review provisions of the Clean Air Act, then here the plaintiffs tried a double end run — adding to their flawed premature challenge by seeking judicial review in the wrong court.

The Clean Air Act provides that a challenge to any “standard of performance or requirement under section [111]” — which will include EPA’s Clean Power Plan, when finalized — must be filed in the D.C. Circuit. The Clean Air Act vests the D.C. Circuit with this authority to ensure uniform and consistent review of actions that apply nationally.

The Oklahoma federal district court made short work of the suit.

On Friday, the court firmly rejected the challenges – dismissing them on the basis of the plaintiffs’ brief alone, without even waiting for EPA’s response.

The Oklahoma federal district court decision both reaffirmed the courts’ authority to review only final agency actions, and identified the D.C. Circuit as the proper venue for challenging the Clean Power Plan, when it is finalized.

In the decision, written by Oklahoma federal district court Judge Claire Eagen, the court said:

The D.C. Circuit has already determined that the proposed emission standards are not a final agency action, and that court has denied a petition to review the proposed emission standards before they become a final rule. (Page 9)

The decision also says:

Even if the Court found that it would not be premature to exercise jurisdiction over this case, plaintiffs have failed to show that jurisdictional review provision of the CAA would permit this Court to exercise jurisdiction over the case . . . . The ultimate issue of whether the EPA has the authority to promulgate the disputed emission standards pursuant to § 7411(d) must be decided by the court with exclusive jurisdiction over these matters, and that court is the D.C. Circuit. (Page 9 – Emphasis Added)

Taken together, these decisions should give pause to litigants contemplating procedurally-flawed legal challenges — but unfortunately, Oklahoma is continuing to press these misguided claims in an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. And these are just the latest in a series of legally-unfoundedattacks on these critical standards.

The health and environmental benefits of the Clean Power Plan could be profound. As EPA prepares for the inevitable legal challenges to come, it has a strong track record of defending the Clean Power Plan and other important clean air safeguards against legal attacks. That's good news for the families and communities that are afflicted by carbon pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants — the nation's single largest source of this climate-destabilizing pollution.

Also posted in Clean Power Plan, News, Policy| Comments are closed

The Mercury Standards, Post-Supreme Court – Still in Effect, Still Protecting Americans

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Supreme Court of the United States

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) first proposed the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards back in 2011, at a news conference at Children’s Hospital with cheering children and families surrounding the speakers.

They were cheering because the Mercury Standards were the single most important clean air measure of our generation – designed to protect Americans from some of the worst, most dangerous types of air pollution.

They still are.

This week’s disappointing Supreme Court decision, remanding the standards back to the D.C. Circuit Court for further analysis, has distracted from that fact.

But the fact remains – the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are a suite of life-saving protections against some of the most health-harming substances emitted by coal and oil-fired power plants, including mercury, arsenic and other heavy metals, and acid gases.

Here’s What Happened

Coal- and oil-fired power plants are by far the largest emitters of these pollutants, which are dangerous to human health even in small doses. Mercury causes brain damage in children, metal toxics like chromium and nickel cause cancer, and acid gases cause respiratory problems.

This week, the Supreme Court held that EPA should have considered the costs of regulation when it made a threshold determination under section 112 of the Clean Air Act that it is “appropriate and necessary” to move forward with the first-ever national limits for these noxious emissions. It is now up to EPA to determine the best way to respond to the decision.

(The case was Michigan v. EPA. EDF was a party to the case. You can read the decision and the sharp dissent here.)

What does the Supreme Court ruling mean for the Mercury Air Toxics Standards?

Here are three important things you should know.

First — there is every reason to believe EPA can quickly amend its “appropriate and necessary” finding to address the Supreme Court’s decision, without affecting the substance of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards themselves.

Importantly, the Court left it up to EPA to determine how to evaluate costs and how to weigh those costs against the benefits of regulation. As the Court’s opinion acknowledged, EPA has already conducted an extensive review of both the costs and benefits of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards as part of the regulatory analyses most agencies carry out under Executive Order 12866. That analysis contains overwhelming evidence showing that the benefits of MATS far outweigh its costs.

According to EPA, the monetized benefits of the Mercury and Air Toxics are expected to be up to $90 billion per year.

That amount reflects the enormous health benefits Americans will get from the standards. EPA estimates that they will prevent 11,000 premature deaths, up to 4,700 heart attacks, and up to 130,000 asthma attacks each year.

There are substantial and additional non-monetized benefits associated with reduced exposure to mercury and other harmful pollutants regulated by the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

Moreover, in spite of the power industry’s claims, reducing these emissions has proven much less expensive than initially projected. Major power companies such as AEP, NRG, and FirstEnergy have been reporting to their investors that the costs of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are as much as 70 percent lower than they first estimated.

The bottom line is that the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are an extraordinarily beneficial public health measure and are providing healthier, longer lives for millions of Americans at a fraction of the costs predicted.

Second — the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards can and should continue to be implemented while EPA amends its “appropriate and necessary finding.”

The Supreme Court’s opinion did not prohibit the implementation of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards – and in the past, the appellate courts have often allowed Clean Air Act regulations to remain in place while EPA amends them to address technical or legal issues.  

In this case, a large majority of American power plants are already in compliance with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards — in many instances because they have been upgrading pollution controls to comply with state emission standards or other Clean Air Act requirements.  M.J. Bradley & Associates recently estimated that about 70 percent of the U.S. coal fleet had installed pollution controls to comply with the standards by the April 2015 deadline. In addition, a substantial number of plants have received one-year extensions to this compliance deadline and are now working to install pollution controls by April 2016.

Given the importance of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards to public health, and the overwhelming likelihood that EPA will be able to quickly address the Court’s decision, there is no reason that power plants should be allowed to delay installing pollution controls or cease operating already-installed pollution controls.

Third – the Supreme Court decision has no adverse implications for EPA’s Clean Power Plan – despite the wild claims being made by some opponents of these vital limits on carbon pollution from power plants.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and the Clean Power Plan are based on entirely separate Clean Air Act authorities that reside in separate parts of the statute. The authority EPA is acting on to develop the Clean Power Plan expressly provides for the consideration of costs, and EPA has carefully taken costs into account in the Clean Power Plan in the manner required by the statute. Thus, claims that the ruling on the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards should somehow cast doubt on the legality of the Clean Power Plan are severely misguided.

Summing It Up

Marian Burton, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, summed it up perfectly back in 2011, when the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards were first proposed:

Dirty air makes children sick … If you think it's an expensive process to put a scrubber on a smokestack, you should see how much it costs over a lifetime to treat a child with a preventable birth defect.

That’s why hundreds of thousands of Americans sent comments to EPA in support of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

It’s why EDF and so many other health, environmental, and social justice groups will go back to the D.C. Circuit Court to defend the standards.

We’ll keep fighting to make sure the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are fully implemented so we can realize the promise of the Clean Air Act — and make sure all Americans have safe, healthy air to breathe.

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Health, News, Policy| Comments are closed
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