CHARLESTON – West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is leading the charge in arguing that the Environmental Protection Agency should declare illegal a settlement deal in which the agency promised to issue its proposed Clean Power Plan.
Morrisey, along with attorneys general from Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming, filed a 64-page brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last week.
The bipartisan group contends the agency should void the 2011 settlement agreement.
The agreement committed the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.
The lawsuit contends the agreement is illegal because coal-fired power plants already are regulated under a separate section of the CAA. The law expressly prohibits the double regulation of these plants.
A ruling that the EPA made an unlawful commitment could force it to abandon the currently pending rule.
“This filing represents a major, critical step in our office’s efforts to protect West Virginia’s coal jobs and its economy,” Morrisey said Monday. “We will not allow the Obama Administration’s overreach to affect the thousands of people who depend on this state’s coal industry to provide for their families, or affect the hardworking residents who will be subjected to higher energy costs should this flawed rule go forward.”
Under the EPA’s proposal, new large natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour, while new small natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour.
New coal-fired units would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour, and would have the option to meet a somewhat tighter limit if they choose to average emissions over multiple years, giving those units additional operational flexibility.
In its proposal, the EPA has tasked West Virginia with a carbon emissions reduction target of 20 percent by 2030.
Morrisey said last year he is “very concerned” about the EPA’s carbon reduction plan, calling it “reckless.”
“I’ve seen little from the White House or the EPA on what people in Boone, Marshall, Logan, Marion, Mingo, Monongalia and other counties around the state should do when their local coal mines have layoffs,” the attorney general said at the time.
“West Virginia cannot idly sit by and allow politicians and bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., to cripple our economy.”
Last week, 17 state attorneys general, including Morrisey, submitted formal comments to the agency regarding the proposed plan.
“In our comments, we pointed out the flaws with this proposed rule, and how this proposed rule on existing coal-fired power plants simply cannot be used to usurp a state’s authority to manage its power resources,” Morrisey said.
“We will continue to use every legal tool available to protect our state from these kinds of broad, illegal actions.”
To read the comments filed by the attorneys general, click here.
Also filing comments last week were the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection – with input from the West Virginia Division of Energy and senior staff of the West Virginia Public Service Commission – and the West Virginia Coal Association.
In its comments, the state argues that the proposed rule is unprecedented, illegal and, if enacted, would result in higher energy prices and lower energy reliability for residents.
“The EPA’s attempt to take regulatory control away from the states will result in unreliable supply and higher electric bills for most Americans,” Coal Association President Bill Raney said.
The Mountain State receives 95 percent of its electricity from coal.