McConnell Presses States to Stop Clean Power Plan Work

Energy and Climate Report provides current, thorough coverage of clean energy, efficiency, and climate change legislation, regulation, policy, legal developments, and trends in the U.S. and...

By Andrew Childers

March 21 — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) launched another bid to dissuade states from working toward compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency's carbon dioxide standards for power plants while the rule has been stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

McConnell, a leading congressional opponent of the Clean Power Plan (RIN 2060-AR33), argued in a March 21 letter to the National Governors Association that states that choose to work toward the EPA's carbon dioxide standards could face significant economic losses should the rule ultimately be overturned by the courts.

“The administration was evidently hoping that states would be so far down the road in developing their compliance plans that they would be committed to those plans before the legal issues surrounding the [Clean Power Plan] could be resolved,” McConnell said. “It is the same strategy this administration followed with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. While the Supreme Court ultimately struck down the MATS regulation, the damage had already been done; states, citizens and businesses had already faced irreparable harm.”

The U.S. Supreme Court took the unprecedented step Feb. 9 of staying the Clean Power Plan, which limits carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector in each state, even though the rule has not yet been argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (West Virginia v. EPA, U.S., No. 15A773, 2/9/16).

“Many characterize the Supreme Court's recent decision as unusual and unprecedented, which says a lot about the unusual and unprecedented nature of the [Clean Power Plan],” McConnell said.

McConnell has previously urged states to boycott compliance with the Clean Power Plan, a strategy known as “just say no.” That would force the EPA to issue a federal plan in place of one written by the states. Though some states are moving ahead—including the nine states in the Northeast's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative's emissions trading program—others have halted their compliance planning work while they wait for the litigation to be resolved .

The D.C. Circuit will hear argument in lawsuits brought by 27 states and several utilities challenging the Clean Power Plan June 2 and possibly June 3 as well.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Childers in Washington at achilders@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com