WASHINGTON, D.C. — A 10-judge panel on a federal appeals court for the D.C. Circuit heard arguments Tuesday on the Clean Power Plan that has been challenged by West Virginia along with over two dozen other states.
The controversial rule aims to reduce CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants by over 30 percent by the year 2030, in accordance with targets of a global climate agreement signed in Paris last year. A stay on the rule was issued by the U.S. Supreme Court was issued earlier this year.
“We said (then) that we were looking forward to having our day in court on the merits. Today was that day,” said AG Patrick Morrisey. “I think that the collective coalition was able to put very strong legal arguments forward, as to why this regulation is unlawful, and why it should be set aside.”
Morrisey believed that eventually the 27-state coalition would prevail, even if the matter had to be decided in the Supreme Court, which is a distinct possibility.
“The fact is that the EPA lacks the authority to regulate in this space, and we believe we ultimately will prevail. We don’t know when, we don’t know where, but our legal arguments are strong.”
Those opposed to the CPP, mostly GOP-led states, argue the rule would effectively kill coal mining jobs and cause electricity costs to sky rocket. The Obama administration and several Democrat-led states, along with environmental groups are in favor of the rule contending that it will create thousands of new clean-energy jobs.
Wet Virginia depends on coal-fired plants for 96 percent of its power, the highest rate in the nation along with Wyoming, Indiana and Kentucky.
E. Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma AG and one of the leaders of the coalition, said there was little doubt that the rule would ultimately hurt consumers in such states.
“Rates will go up substantially in Oklahoma; across this country,” he said. “And all without representation, and all because the EPA is acting outside of its scope of authority.”
Pruitt commended the 27 states that had come together, which he said would have been “unprecedented” before 2010, but called on Congress to start making their opinions on the CPP known.
“It is the senators and the congressmen that should join together to give a clear statement on what they would have the EPA to do with respect to emission control measures that are put in place by the EPA.”
Chief Judge Merrick Garland, who was nominated by President Obama to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat left by the death of Antonin Scalia, recused himself from the case. Tuesday’s arguments lasted about seven hours.
“You can’t simply ignore the rule of law and prevail,” declared Morrisey. “What this administration is trying to do really hurts coal miners, it will increase the price of electricity and obviously will put the reliability of the power grid at risk.”
Six of the 10 appeals judges on the D.C. Circuit were appointed by Democratic presidents. Morrisey had previously said that despite the liberal leanings of the court, he was confident the arguments against the Plan were strong enough.
The controversy is unlikely to be resolved before Obama leaves office in Jan. 2017. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has promised to continue Obama’s policies on carbon reduction, while Donald Trump plans to renegotiate the Paris treaty.