Carbon Standards for New Power Plants Go to Court in April

By Andrew Childers

Dec. 2 — Three months after the new administration takes office, President-elect Donald Trump’s Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency will head to court to defend one of President Barack Obama’s signature climate change rules ( North Dakota v. EPA , D.C. Cir., No. 15-1381, 12/2/16 ).

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit scheduled oral arguments over the EPA’s carbon dioxide standards for new power plants for April 17, 2017, according to an order issued Dec. 2. The three judges who will hear the argument have yet to be announced.

The carbon dioxide emissions limits for new power plants (RIN:2060-AQ91), along with similar standards for existing units, are at the core of Obama’s domestic efforts to address climate change and have been challenged by an array of states as well as utilities and industry groups. Opponents of the new standards argued in briefs filed in October that the EPA had overstepped its Clean Air Act authority by setting limits for new coal-fired units that effectively require the use of some form of carbon capture in an effort to foster cleaner energy sources. The EPA’s response is due Dec. 14.

Though arguments have been scheduled, the incoming Trump administration, which opposed climate change regulations on the campaign trail, could seek to hold the case in abeyance while it evaluates the EPA’s rule. Trump campaigned on rolling back the EPA’s climate change regulations even though he has given conflicting answers on whether humans contribute to climate change, once calling it a Chinese hoax.

In September, 10 judges of the D.C. Circuit heard nearly seven hours of argument over the carbon dioxide standards for existing power plants, known as the Clean Power Plan. A decision is expected in early 2017 ( West Virginia v. EPA, D.C. Cir. en banc, No. 15-1363, 9/27/16 ).

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Childers in Washington, D.C. at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at

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