Democratic states challenging the Trump Administration’s redo of the Obama CO2 emissions regulations should be careful what they sue for.
Their lawsuit could backfire and undermine the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate carbon emissions.
Twenty-two Democratic state Attorneys General and seven cities this week asked the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate the Trump EPA’s CO2 emission rules for coal plants. The Clean Air Act directs the EPA to implement the “best system of emission reduction” for pollutants, which the agency has traditionally applied to individual power plants.
The Obama EPA went further and required states to re-engineer their electric grids by replacing all coal and eventually natural gas with wind and solar. The Supreme Court in 2016 stopped the Obama power grab from being implemented as it likely exceeded the EPA’s legal authority and unconstitutionally commandeered the states.
The result is that federal CO2 emission standards for power plants have been nonexistent. Last month the Trump EPA issued new regulations requiring states to implement the “best system of emission reduction” by making on-site efficiency improvements at coal plants. The rule gives states flexibility and won’t force them to prematurely close plants.
Yet Democratic states complain in announcing their lawsuit that the “EPA’s rule rolls-back [the Obama] limits and will have virtually no impact on these emissions prolonging the nation’s reliance on polluting, expensive coal power plants and obstructing progress of states toward clean, renewable, and affordable electricity generation.” This is false in every respect.
The Trump rule will cover 600 coal-fired plants and cut emissions to 34% below 2005 levels—similar to what the Obama Clean Power Plan purported to achieve. As the Trump rule notes, “updated analysis shows the [Clean Power Plan] would have no effect on future CO2 emissions” due to “current market trends.”