Nine states are joining forces with a prominent climate denier and coal company owner to sue the Environmental Protection Agency over its new regulations on carbon emissions from coal plants, arguing that the EPA has no authority to make the rule.
Filing a brief with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday, the nine states — West Virginia, Wyoming, South Carolina, Ohio, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Alaska, Alabama, and Kentucky — argued that the EPA is not allowed to regulate carbon from existing coal plants, and is attempting to impose “double regulations” on coal plants everywhere. The states are seeking to join a lawsuit recently filed by Murray Energy Corp., the largest independently-owned coal company in the country, which is asking the court to put an immediate stop to the “disastrous” rule.
Murray Energy’s lawsuit was spearheaded by company owner Robert Murray, who originally threatened to sue the EPA over its carbon regulations in early June. The reason he wanted to sue, he said, was that climate change is fake, that the EPA was lying about its existence, and that the earth was actually cooling.
A few weeks later, Murray made good on that promise and sued — though the lawsuit did not include any of his arguments regarding the need for regulation of greenhouse gases, or the existence of global warming.
Instead, Murray’s lawsuit argues that the EPA does not have the authority to issue the regulations. The ten states that joined Murray’s lawsuit Friday argued the same, saying the rules extend “in excess of [EPA’s] delegated powers.”
“What EPA is attempting is nothing short of extraordinary,” the states’ brief reads.
In order to understand the states’ argument, one has to understand where the EPA’s carbon regulations come from. They come from a provision in the federal Clean Air Act called Section 111(d), which requires the agency to develop regulations for “sources” — such as coal plants or cars — that “cause or significantly contribute to air pollution which may endanger public health or welfare.” At the direction of the Supreme Court, the EPA in 2009 specifically found that greenhouse gas pollution endangers public health and welfare.
Though that clearly gives the EPA the authority and responsibility to regulate greenhouse gases from coal plants, the states are arguing otherwise. Because general air pollution from existing coal plants is already regulated under a different section of the Clean Air Act, they argue, greenhouse gas regulations under Section 111(d) would “impose impermissible double regulation” on coal plants.
The argument will likely be a difficult one to make, as the Supreme Court has already affirmed numerous times that the EPA is allowed to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. In Massachusetts v. EPA in 2007, the high court ruled specifically that carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping emissions could be considered “air pollutants” under the Act, and that the U.S. government had authority to curb them. Just last week, the Supreme Court effectively affirmed 7 to 2 that the EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases from stationary sources, like coal plants.
Regulating carbon emissions from coal plants will be the most significant thing America has ever done to combat climate change. The electricity sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions here, and dropping those 25 percent in 6 years amounts to a reduction of roughly 300 million tons of CO2 each year.