Clean Power Plan replacement rule faces legal challenge from 22 states

August 14, 2019

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule is being challenged in court by 22 states and seven cities that argue the plan will prolong the nation’s reliance on coal power and that it obstructs states that pursue cleaner electricity generation.

The petition from the 22 states including California, New York and Colorado was filed in a federal appellate court in Washington and calls for the rule to be vacated. The petitioners argue that the ACE rule, which was finalized by the EPA in June, will not curb rising carbon emissions from power plants and will prolong the operation of coal plants, Reuters reported.

The ACE rule was created to replace the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan that faced legal challenges of its own.

The lawsuit is one of dozens undertaken by Democratic-led states to challenge the Trump administration’s series of rollbacks of major rules in the energy sector aimed at easing regulatory burdens for industry.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in June unveiled the ACE, which set guidelines for states to develop performance standards for power plants to boost the amount of power produced relative to the amount of coal burned.

Wheeler said coal-fired power plants remained essential to the power grid, something that opponents deny. “Americans want reliable energy that they can afford,” he said at a news conference announcing ACE. There’s no denying “the fact that fossil fuels will continue to be an important part of the mix,” he said.

The 2015 Clean Power Plan, by contrast, had aimed to slash power plant carbon emissions by more than a third from 2005 levels by 2030. It aimed to do this by pushing utilities to drop coal in favor of cleaner fuels like natural gas, as well as solar and wind power, and allowing states to decrease their emissions through a variety of options.

In 2016, 27 states joined by pro-coal business groups sued the Obama administration to block the Clean Power Plan. That lawsuit resulted in an issued stay from the Supreme Court and bought enough time for the Trump administration to begin repealing it after he was elected.

The states and cities that sued to stop the ACE rule argue that the rule only requires utilities to undertake modest equipment upgrades at power plants that would not result in significant emissions reductions. This, they argue, violates the federal Clean Air Act, which requires the EPA to require the use of the “best available control technology” possible.

They argue that ACE does not recognize efforts by states that have implemented emissions trading programs to slash greenhouse gas emissions, such as California and New York.

 

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