Climate

Hundreds Of Lawmakers Are Ganging Up Against The Clean Power Plan

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The Clean Power Plan, which mandates carbon emission reductions in the electricity sector, is having a rough time.

First there were the court challenges that began soon after the Environmental Protection Agency published the rule last year. Then, the Supreme Court unexpectedly put it on hold earlier this month as a federal appeals court decides its legality. Now, more than 200 lawmakers opposing the historic regulation say the rule usurps Congressional power to craft climate and energy policy.

“Congress never authorized EPA to compel the kind of massive shift in electricity generation effectively mandated in the [Clean Power Plan],” said the lawmakers in a court brief filed Tuesday supporting the massive lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan. “If Congress desired to give EPA sweeping authority … Congress would have provided for that unprecedented power in detailed legislation.”

Thirty-four senators and 171 representatives signed the amicus brief, including presidential candidates and senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Ted Cruz (R-TX). All signatories are Republicans, except Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a coal-dependent state.

The Clean Power Plan — a cornerstone of President Obama’s climate change initiative — calls for reductions in carbon emissions from the electricity sector by 32 percent over 2005 levels in the next 15 years. This historic rule sets emission standards for states and guidelines to follow, yet it allows states to decide how to comply with the standards. The Clean Power Plan does threaten to impose an EPA-designed plan on states that don’t comply.

Supporters say the Clean Power Plan is a major tool to tackle greenhouse gas emissions that are causing global warming, and that it’s key in meeting emission reductions targets pledged in Paris. For their part, critics say the rule is flawed and too costly for the industry and jobs.

“The power plan won’t even meaningfully affect global carbon emissions, and could actually increase emissions by offshoring American manufacturing to countries that lack our environmental standards,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), in a statement last year. McConnell is a signatory of the brief.

The White House said the court filing is just the latest Republican “obstructionist” maneuver, according to published reports. “We remain confident that we will prevail on the merits when the plan gets it full day in court,” said White House spokesman Frank Benenati to the Associated Press.

Electricity accounts for 31 percent of the United States’ total greenhouse gas emissions, followed closely by transportation and industry. According to the EPA, greenhouse gas emissions from electricity have increased by about 11 percent since 1990, as electricity demand has grown while fossil fuels remain the dominant source of power.

So far about two dozen mostly Republican states are suing the Clean Power Plan. However, the rule has its share of supporters, too, including a majority of residents in states suing to stop the Clean Power Plan. According to a recent Yale University study, 61 percent of the public in the 26 suing states supports the policy. Only 38 percent of the public on average opposes the policy.

Meanwhile, some 25 states, cities, and counties defend the rule, saying the risks of not implementing it are greater than the expense. In fact, 20 states of the 47 affected by the Clean Power Plan said they will press on to abide to the plan, according to Climatewire.

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will start hearing oral arguments in June.