August 13, 2019 / 4:36 PM / a month ago

Twenty-two states sue Trump administration over carbon rule replacement

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Twenty-two states, including New York and California, and seven cities on Tuesday sued to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s replacement of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, arguing it prolongs U.S. reliance on coal power and obstructs states that pursue cleaner electricity generation.

The petition filed in a federal appellate court in Washington calls for the rule to be vacated. The petitioners argue that the EPA’s Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, which it finalized in June, will not curb rising carbon emissions from power plants and will prolong the operation of dirtier coal plants .

“Without significant course correction, we are careening towards a climate disaster,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement announcing the lawsuit, adding that the coalition of states and cities “will fight back against this unlawful, do-nothing rule.”

The lawsuit is one of dozens undertaken by Democratic-led states to challenge the Trump administration’s series of rollbacks of major rules in the energy sector aimed at easing regulatory burdens for industry.

California, which is currently at odds with the EPA over the state’s ability to enforce stricter vehicle emissions rules, has filed 55 lawsuits against the Trump administration.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in June unveiled the ACE, which set guidelines for states to develop performance standards for power plants to boost the amount of power produced relative to the amount of coal burned.

Obama’s Clean Power Plan, by contrast, had aimed to slash power plant carbon emissions by more than a third from 2005 levels by 2030. It aimed to do this by pushing utilities to drop coal in favor of cleaner fuels like natural gas, as well as solar and wind power, and allowing states to decrease their emissions through a variety of options.

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The states and cities that sued on Tuesday said the EPA ACE rule only requires utilities to undertake modest equipment upgrades at power plants that would not result in significant emissions reductions. This, they argue, violates the federal Clean Air Act, which requires the EPA to require the use of the “best available control technology” possible.

They argue that ACE does not recognize efforts by states that have implemented emissions trading programs to slash greenhouse gas emissions, such as California and New York.

“The ACE plan tries to reverse the progress California and other states are making and to keep the oldest and dirtiest coal plants on life support,” said California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols. “It fails the tests of law and economics.”

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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