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States are choosing sides on looming EPA lawsuit

As a lawsuit presses forward over the Obama Administration’s pollution regulation over power plants, 14 states and the District of Columbia have signed on in support of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and their recent climate change-related litigation.

The Hill reported that Murray Energy took up a lawsuit against the EPA calling the carbon reducing litigation actions “illegal, irrational, and radical.”  The nine states that have signed on in agreement with Murray Energy include West Virginia, Alabama, Alaska, Kentucky, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Wyoming.

The states that are committed to uphold the new laws include typical blue states such as New York, California, Delaware, Rhode Island, New Mexico and Oregon. These states have all agreed in a briefing filed Monday that they all have a “compelling” interest in mitigating climate change impacts on their respective state residents. According to a brief filed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, among the issues of concern include “increased heat-related deaths, damaged coastal areas, and more severe weather events.”

In addition to the fresh states that have signed on in support, numerous environmental organizations have come to the aide of the EPA.  A group consisting of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and Environmental Defense Council, along with three other groups, told the court that Murray has no legal grounds for their claims against the EPA.

Murray cannot show that section 111(d) [of the Clean Air Act] unambiguously forbids the EPA from regulating emissions of a dangerous but non-hazardous pollutant from an existing industrial source if the EPA has regulated emissions of any hazardous pollutant from that source under section 112,” the groups wrote.”

If upheld, the new EPA litigation is expected to be finalized by next summer. According to the EPA, by 2030, the new laws would:

  • Cut carbon emission from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels.
  • Cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent.
  • Avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days—providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits.
  • Would help reduce electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.

The coal industry, however, has their own numbers. Last month, a coalition consisting of the coal industry and other energy-related businesses released a study which claimed EPA carbon regulations for power plants could cost, at minimum, $366 billion. Also, the report stated 43 states would see double-digit percentage increases in their citizen’s electricity bills, with at least 20 percent increases in 14 states.

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