Red States Challenge Biden Rules That Threaten Coal Power Plants

On April 25, the U.S. Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion issued four sep­a­rate rules direct­ed at pow­er plants that “effec­tive­ly moved to end the use of coal to keep the lights on in Amer­i­ca,” report­ed Coral Dav­en­port and Lisa Fried­man for The New York Times last month.

The most con­se­quen­tial of the new rules is aimed at near­ly elim­i­nat­ing diox­ide emis­sions from the coal plants.

On May 9, that rule, known as the New Source Per­for­mance Stan­dards for Green­house Gas Emis­sions from New, Mod­i­fied, and Recon­struct­ed Fos­sil Fuel-Fired Elec­tric Gen­er­at­ing Units, along with two relat­ed mea­sures:

were pub­lished in the Fed­er­al register. Meris Lutz, who cov­ers cli­mate, the envi­ron­ment, and the econ­o­my for The Atlanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion, (in the source arti­cle) on the law­suit filed that day in the Unit­ed States Court of Appeals for the Dis­trict of Colum­bia Cir­cuit:

Twen­ty-five -led states, includ­ing Geor­gia, filed a legal chal­lenge  to new fed­er­al reg­u­la­tions on air pol­lu­tion from pow­er plants that gen­er­ate elec­tric­i­ty.

“The new reg­u­la­tions include cost­ly and unat­tain­able emis­sions stan­dards, such as unre­al­is­tic com­pli­ance time­lines, in an attempt to kill coal-fired units while endan­ger­ing the con­struc­tion of nat­ur­al gas plants,” states a press release from the Office of the Attor­ney Gen­er­al of the State of Geor­gia on May 9.

The rule also dis­re­gards a pri­or opin­ion from the U.S. Supreme Court in West Vir­ginia v. EPA, which warned that the EPA should not use a nar­row reg­u­la­to­ry pro­vi­sion to force coal-fired pow­er plants into retire­ment. 

“The appeal itself is only about a page long and makes no detailed argu­ment against the rule oth­er than to say it is ‘arbi­trary, capri­cious, an abuse of dis­cre­tion, and not in accor­dance with law,’” adds Lutz, refer­ring to the fil­ing by Attor­ney Gen­er­al Chris Carr. 

But Gudrun Thomp­son, a senior attor­ney with the Envi­ron­men­tal Law Cen­ter, said the new reg­u­la­tion stands on “firm legal foot­ing.”

Carbon capture requirement

Far­go notes that the 25 state attor­neys gen­er­al are being led by West Vir­gini­a’s Patrick Mor­risey, known for the afore­men­tioned land­mark Supreme Court case in 2022, West Vir­ginia v. Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, lim­it­ing the pow­er of the EPA to reg­u­late green­house gas emis­sions.

West Virginia v. EPA, Round 2

Fur­ther­more, the cas­es will be with oth­ers chal­leng­ing the Mer­cury and Air Tox­i­cs Stan­dards rule final­ized by the EPA last month, reports Son­al Patel for Pow­er on May 9.

On Thurs­day, a coali­tion of 23 states led by North Dako­ta and West Vir­ginia filed a peti­tion for review of the EPA’s final MATS rules…

The D.C. Cir­cuit on Thurs­day after­noon con­sol­i­dat­ed that case—State of West Vir­ginia, et. al. v. EPA (No. 24–1120)—with a sep­a­rate peti­tion for review filed joint­ly ear­li­er in the day by the states of Ohio and Kansas, which chal­lenged the EPA’s GHG rule.

In addi­tion, the court con­sol­i­dat­ed two indus­try peti­tions for review of the GHG rule into the case State of West Vir­ginia, et al. v. EPA: one filed by the Nation­al Rur­al Elec­tric Coop­er­a­tive Asso­ci­a­tion (NRECA) and anoth­er joint­ly filed by the Nation­al Min­ing Asso­ci­a­tion (NMA) and Amer­i­ca’s Pow­er.

Existing natural gas power plants

As for nat­ur­al gas pow­er plants that pro­vid­ed about 43 per­cent of the nation’s pow­er last year, the EPA chose not to address their emis­sions, oth­er than requir­ing them “to com­ply with best prac­tice emis­sions lim­its based on effi­cien­cy,” wrote Julia Attwood for Bloomberg NEF on May 2, to “address the threat of lit­i­ga­tion from gas pow­er pro­duc­ers.”

“That is a big dis­ap­point­ment,” Jen­nifer A Dlouhy, who reports on ener­gy and envi­ron­men­tal issues for Bloomberg News, told the PBS New­sHour on April 25. 

There are envi­ron­men­tal­ists who are real­ly con­cerned about get­ting at not just the new gas plants that will be built, but a huge source of pol­lu­tion com­ing from the exist­ing fleet. And, for now, they’re to have to wait at least anoth­er year for that to be com­plet­ed, for that process to be fin­ished.

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