West Virginia, other states ask court to block EPA CO2 plan

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said Aug. 1 that his state is leading a group of 12 states that are asking the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., to declare illegal a settlement agreement in which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promised to issue its now-pending rule to restrict carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants.

Entered into in March 2011, the settlement agreement committed EPA to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, according to GenerationHub.

The lawsuit contends that the agreement is illegal because coal-fired power plants already are regulated under a separate section of the Clean Air Act and the law expressly prohibits the double regulation of such power plants.

The states are challenging the settlement agreement now that EPA has chosen to follow through with its “illegal” promise; Morrisey said in an Aug. 1 news release. A ruling that EPA made an unlawful commitment could force EPA to abandon its currently pending rule.

EPA issued its proposed Clean Power Plan in June. It recently started public hearings on the 600-page rule proposal and is accepting comments on it until October.

The legal action is one of the first, but almost certainly not the last, court case being filed in connection with EPA’s rule proposal.

West Virginia was joined in the lawsuit by a group of states including Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming. The states tend to be either heavy coal producers, reliant on significant amount of coal-fired generation on involved in carbon-intensive industries.

“This lawsuit represents another effort by our office to invalidate the EPA’s proposed rule that will have devastating effects on West Virginia’s jobs and its economy,” Morrisey said. “Our Office will use every legal tool available to protect coal miners and their families from the Obama Administration and its overreach. We can’t afford to see more announcements like we saw with Alpha Natural Resources yesterday.”

Alpha Natural Resources notified 1,100 employees on July 31 of potential layoffs and reduced operations at 11 of its mines across West Virginia.

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Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 22 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants.

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