More than 200 current and former members of Congress are coming to the aid of the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s rule for reducing carbon emissions from power plants that’s currently embroiled in a legal fight.
The lawmakers, which comprise 44 current and former senators and 164 current and former members of the House and come from both parties, filed an amicus brief Friday in support of the plan. The case against the Clean Power Plan is being brought by 27 states, led by coal-heavy West Virginia. The rule is currently on hold until the D.C. Circuit Court makes a decision on the case — which could be as late as this fall.
These states claim that the Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its authority in crafting the rule, which regulates power plant emissions under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. The states claim that, since the EPA already regulates other types of pollutants from power plants under Section 112, it doesn’t have the legal authority to use this other section of the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon from power plants.
The EPA — along with the 208 lawmakers who signed on to the amicus brief — says that’s not the case. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), one of the lawmakers who signed the amicus brief, said on a call Friday that he was in Congress in 1990 when the amendments to the Clean Air Act, including 111(d), were passed, and that he has no doubt that the Clean Power Plan is legal.
“The Clean Air Act gives the EPA authority to regulate pollution. That is what the agency is doing with the Clean Power Plan rule — Reducing carbon pollution from existing power plants,” Markey said.
The lawmakers on the call also stressed the need to address climate change, saying the Clean Power Plan was a flexible, effective way of doing so.
“We face the biggest problem our generation will face on this planet and that is climate change,” Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) said. Power plants are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, he said, so acting to limit their emissions is “critical to protect future generations.”
The lawmakers aren’t the only ones to rally in support of the Clean Power Plan. On Friday, a group of 54 local governments — along with the National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors — also filed an amicus brief in support of the rule Friday.
“Mayors know cities have the most to gain, as well as the most to lose in this debate because climate change and rising sea levels threaten the physical structure of our cities,” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. “Cities have been combating climate change for over a decade through our Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement, but we need a national response.”
Environmental and health groups submitted their own brief this week, as did Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon. The environmental groups’ brief took issue with the opposing states’ argument that the EPA shouldn’t regulate carbon emissions from power plants under section 111(d), saying that the reasoning behind it was “like exempting restaurants from food handling requirements because they are subject to the fire code.”
The D.C. Circuit Court is set to hear arguments over the Clean Power Plan case in June.
Despite the fact that several current lawmakers signed on to the petition, many in Congress still deny the fact that climate change is happening and is caused by humans. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) railed against that fact Friday, saying on the press call that fossil fuel companies were helping to skew the views of many in Congress.
“At this point the political might of the fossil fuel industry is employed so remorselessly against them…that they don’t dare budge,” he said.