WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS – West Virginia’s Patrick Morrisey and other state attorneys general on Monday denounced the Obama administration’s finalized “Clean Power Plan.”
“The final rule announced Monday blatantly disregards the rule of law and will severely harm West Virginia and the U.S. economy,” Morrisey said during the AG’s meeting at The Greenbrier resort. “This rule represents the most far-reaching energy regulation in this nation’s history, drawn up by radical bureaucrats and based upon an obscure, rarely used provision of the Clean Air Act.
“We intend to challenge it in court vigorously.”
President Barack Obama and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday unveiled the final version of the “Clean Power Plan,” which mandates states to cut their carbon emissions by an average of 32 percent by 2030. This goal would be accomplished through a reduction in coal-based energy generation in the coming years.
Morrisey already had teamed up with a bipartisan coalition of 14 other states to challenge the preliminary version of the rule, which contained serious legal flaws. While the administration made some changes in the final rule, Morrisey and his fellow AGs still believe the final version is “fundamentally flawed and illegal.”
Morrisey and his counterparts have argued for more than a year that the proposed rule is illegal because it is not limited to requiring power plants to install pollution technologies, which is all the Clean Air Act permits. Rather, they say the majority of the rule’s emissions reductions come from mandating that the states fundamentally alter their energy economies to consume less coal-fired energy.
“This final rule adopts a radical, unprecedented regime, transforming EPA from an environmental regulator into a central planning authority for electricity generation,” Morrisey said. “With this final rule, the administration is doubling down on a proposal that would force states to fundamentally reorder their energy economies, which will lead to fewer jobs, higher electricity rates and put stress on the reliability of the power grid.”
Morrisey contends the rule is also illegal because it seeks to require states to regulate coal-fired power plants under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, even though the EPA already regulates those same plants under the hazardous air pollutant program, or Section 112 of the Act. Amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1990 expressly prohibited such double regulation. The administration is relying on a drafting error in a portion of the 1990 amendments to claim it has the authority to follow through with these onerous regulations.
Morrisey and the coalition of AGs said Monday they intend to file legal actions challenging this final rule.
“Our coalition, in short order, will comprise of many states, consumers, mine workers, coal operators, utilities and businesses who are united in opposition to this radical and illegal policy,” Morrisey said.
Other West Virginia officials issued similar complaints about the EPA rule.
"After an initial review, it appears the Environmental Protection Agency has made some changes to the proposed Clean Power Plan rule; however, those limited changes still leave us with proposed regulations that are unreasonable, unrealistic and ultimately unattainable for our state,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said in a statement. “While those who employ our hardworking miners have urged us to refuse to submit a compliance plan, at this point West Virginia still has not determined whether it will submit any plan to the EPA.
"As required by House Bill 2004 passed by the Legislature this year, our Department of Environmental Protection will develop a detailed report for the Legislature that includes 'a comprehensive analysis of the effect of the Section 111(d) rule on the state.' In accordance with the new law this analysis, which could not begin until the EPA released its final rule, will be completed within 180 days.”
Tomblin said that while the DEP works on the report required by the Legislature, his staff will continue to review our legal options and are working to determine what a federally developed state implementation plan would involve.
“I appreciate the ongoing work of DEP Secretary Randy Huffman and his staff, who like me, are committed to putting the interests of West Virginians first,” he said.
State Senate President Bill Cole and House Speaker of the House Tim Armstead issued a joint pledge to defend the state’s coal industry.
"The release of President Obama's Clean Power Plan today is sadly something that we have anticipated for years," Cole said. "That's why we took bold, decisive steps in passing House Bill 2004, which provides an additional layer of protection against the relentless attacks on West Virginia's coal fields.
“The Legislature absolutely will not approve any State Implementation Plan that will cause more harm, and bring more job losses, to our state's coal industry."
Armstead echoed that commitment.
"The Obama Administration's Clean Power Plan is another blow to hard working West Virginians who rely on coal-fired power plants for their jobs and livelihood,” he said. “President Obama, when he was running for president, pledged that if companies continued to rely on coal-fired energy it would bankrupt them. This plan is the latest step in the Obama administration's pledge to bankrupt the coal industry.
"Sadly, on the very day that the Obama administration released another round of over-reaching regulations that will further harm our vital coal industry, one of West Virginia's leading coal producers announced that it had filed for bankruptcy protection.
"Under the EPA’s new plan, West Virginia, along with other energy producing states, is directed to develop a plan that will impose self-inflicted damage on our state’s struggling economy," Armstead continued. "All leaders of our state will need to carefully consider whether West Virginia should submit a State Implementation Plan as required by the Clean Power Plan or instead take other steps to fight this latest round of federal overreach."