Is a lawsuit a losing battle when it comes to proposed EPA regulations?

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An advocate for West Virginia’s low and middle income families along with other vulnerable populations says the Mountain State is at a crossroads now that the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new emissions limits for existing coal-fired power plants.

Most state leaders have been quick to criticize the draft rule, since it was released publicly back on Monday, with many calling it “devastating” to West Virginia because of its impact on coal.

If implemented, it would cut carbon emissions from those coal-fired plants by a national average of 30 percent, compared with 2005 levels, before 2030.

“I think we all want to have a stronger economy and good paying jobs and a good place for our children to grow up in and, I think, addressing climate change is definitely part of that,” said Ted Boettner, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

“I think it’s really important for West Virginia’s policymakers to be at the table instead of just putting all their energy into a toxic fight about the war on coal.”

State Attorney Patrick Morrisey, though, sees problems with the EPA’s proposed regulations. “This is something that is better debated in the halls of Congress and we’re certainly looking closely at the regulatory scheme because the impact to West Virginia is so severe,” Morrisey said.

The 645-page draft rule would give states differing deadlines and options for meeting emission-reduction targets that would also vary by state.

With that flexibility, states could, among other things, opt to meet their individualized targets by reducing energy demand through more efficiency programs, by utilizing solar energy, wind energy or natural gas more or by installing pollution-control technology.

After a preliminary review of the proposal, Morrisey said he does not think the Clean Air Act allows the EPA to regulate emissions from power plants or independently implement sweeping emissions limits. He said the proposal is also problematic because it’s being introduced before the regulations for emissions from new power plants have been finalized.

If the latest proposal is finalized next year as is, Morrisey said he will file a lawsuit on West Virginia’s behalf. “I think that it’s clear that, on its face, this is illegal and it has a very detrimental impact for West Virginia,” the attorney general said. “I believe that the EPA would fall in court if this gets tested.”

Four public hearings on the EPA’s proposed rule will be held during the week of July 28 in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., Denver, Co. and Pittsburgh, Pa.

Boettner said West Virginians have a choice to make. “You can put all this effort into a losing battle or you can be at that table making real changes that are going to lead to concrete things that could happen in West Virginia,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’re not doing that.”

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