Cities join defense of EPA's key carbon rule

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The National League of Cities, which represents over 19,000 U.S. cities, filed a motion in a federal court Tuesday to support the Obama administration’s push to curb carbon emissions against legal challenges.

The NLC joined the U.S. Conference of Mayors, as well as 13 cities from Baltimore, Maryland to Salt Lake City, Utah to file a “friend of the court” motion in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to defend the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of the administration’s climate change strategy.

Twenty-six states and a number of business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have challenged the Environmental Protection Agency in court, over the strategy.

The Clean Power Plan aims to lower emissions from the country’s power plants 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, and states, particularly those that rely on coal for electricity, say it pushes beyond the limits of the EPA’s regulatory authority.

The author of Tuesday’s legal motion, Michael Burger of Columbia University Law School, said the move was important because local governments are on the “front lines” of climate change impacts on local economies, infrastructure and natural resources.

The motion says the local governments “support their common view that the Clean Power Plan is a valid exercise of EPA’s authority and represents a reasonable interpretation of the ‘best system of emissions reduction’ under the Clean Air Act.

The cities join 18 states that have also recently filed as “friends of the court” to defend the EPA rule, as well as two former Republican EPA administrators, William Ruckelshaus and William Reilly.

“While there is much we can do, and are doing, at the municipal level, we need federal actions like the Clean Power Plan to help move us away from fossil fuel consumption related to energy generation,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Baker.

The D.C. Circuit gave the EPA has until Dec. 3 to respond to the petition challenging the Clean Power Plan by the 26 states and industry groups.

Those groups will have until Dec. 23 to respond to the EPA, meaning the court is unlikely to make a decision for another several weeks.

Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Andrew Hay