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APPA backs high court's decision to stay EPA rule on CO2

The American Public Power Association supports the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to allow the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review the legal challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, or CPP, prior to its implementation, the public power organization said Feb. 10.

On Feb. 9, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to grant motions filed by states and industry — including APPA — that sought to put the EPA's final CPP rule on hold while the court hears legal challenges to it. The CPP aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants.

"Regardless of their position on these issues, almost all parties agree that implementation of the CPP will result in broad and transformative changes to the electricity industry," APPA said in a Feb. 10 statement. "Thus, resolving these highly controversial issues will significantly reduce the uncertainty of the program and, ultimately, the costs to consumers. APPA looks forward to a meticulous review and consideration of these matters by the court."

In the interim, APPA said, "public power utilities will continue their substantial progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions through greater use of renewable, nuclear, and other low- and non-emitting sources of electricity generation, and the implementation of energy efficiency and conservation programs."

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association also welcomed the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to freeze the EPA rule while the courts review it.

"Charging ahead with implementation of the Clean Power Plan would have caused immediate and irreparable harm to America's electric co-ops," said NRECA Interim CEO Jeffrey Connor. "Had the stay not been granted, co-ops would have been forced to take costly and irreversible steps to comply with the rule." Connor called the EPA rule "a huge overreach of EPA's legal authority."

Upton, Whitfield: ‘This decision is huge'

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., who chairs the Energy and Power Subcommittee, issued a statement welcoming the court's decision to issue a stay of the Clean Power Plan.

"This decision is huge as the court essentially hit the brakes on the EPA's version of Obamacare," said Upton and Whitfield. "The court's stay reaffirms the committee's work to protect ratepayers everywhere from the administration's unprecedented regulatory attack on affordable and reliable electricity. Our oversight shined a bright light on the serious legal questions and the rule's shaky ground, and we are pleased the Supreme Court agreed. Our work to protect American ratepayers continues."

Inhofe sees ‘a sign the court recognizes' overreach by EPA

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, also issued a statement on the high court's decision to grant a stay, saying that the court "has delivered a major blow to President Obama's legacy on climate change."

"The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to stay the implementation of the so-called Clean Power Plan while the legal challenges to that plan are proceeding is a sign the court recognizes that the Obama administration has over reached its authority," said Inhofe. "Over half of the states, 24 national trade associations, 37 rural electric cooperatives, and three labor unions representing 900,000 members have sued the EPA over these rules. These challenges highlight the enforceability problems, encroachment on state authority, skyrocketing electricity prices, and job losses during an already anemic economy that these regulations will cause."

In the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, "we have held six hearings highlighting these problems," Inhofe said, noting that last fall, Congress passed two resolutions, introduced under the Congressional Review Act, against the EPA rule. Those resolutions were vetoed by President Obama.

Inhofe pointed out that the Clean Power Plan regulations "were the foundation of the president's commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement" and said the Supreme Court's action "should demonstrate once again to the world that this president has committed the U.S. to actions that are unenforceable and legally questionable."

Supreme Court action in this case ‘unprecedented'

The Supreme Court's 5-4 vote to stay the CPP "was unprecedented," The New York Times reported. The court "had never before granted a request to halt a regulation before review by a federal appeals court," the newspaper said.

On Jan. 21, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit declined to issue a stay of the EPA's Section 111(d) rule.

White House, environmental groups express disappointment

In a Feb. 9 statement, the White House said it disagrees with the Supreme Court's decision to stay the Clean Power Plan while litigation proceeds and said, "We remain confident that we will prevail on the merits."

"The Clean Power Plan is based on a strong legal and technical foundation, gives states the time and flexibility they need to develop tailored, cost-effective plans to reduce their emissions, and will deliver better air quality, improved public health, clean energy investment and jobs across the country, and major progress in our efforts to confront the risks posed by climate change," the White House said. "Even while the litigation proceeds, EPA has indicated it will work with states that choose to continue plan development and will prepare the tools those states will need. At the same time, the Administration will continue to take aggressive steps to make forward progress to reduce carbon emissions."

Environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and EDF, voiced disappointment with the Supreme Court's decision, but said they believed the courts would uphold the EPA rule.

"We are confident the courts will ultimately uphold the Clean Power Plan on its merits," said David Doniger, director of the NRDC's climate and clean air program. "The electricity sector has embarked on an unstoppable shift from its high-pollution, dirty-fueled past to a safer, cleaner-powered future, and the stay cannot reverse that trend," he said. "Nor can it dampen the overwhelming public support for action on climate change and clean energy."

Conference of Mayors: Action is a letdown to thousands of cities

The U.S. Conference of Mayors said it is disappointed with the Supreme Court's issuance of a stay in this case.

"This is a surprising ruling given the fact that the court earlier ruled that greenhouse gas emissions are considered an air pollutant and therefore subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act," said Tom Cochran, CEO and executive director of the Conference of Mayors. "More importantly, this is disappointing to the thousands of cities that are already doing their part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and were looking to the utilities to become partners in the fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," he said.

The Alliance to Save Energy also expressed misgivings.

"While it is unfortunate to see a legal ‘pause' button pushed for states already underway with their planning processes, it is important to recognize that this in no way reflects a final decision on the merits or legality of the Clean Power Plan," said Kelly Speakes-Backman, senior vice president of policy and research for the alliance. "The good news is that the Clean Power Plan has prompted hundreds of public meetings, forums and discussions around the country on how to harness the benefits of an already emerging modern energy economy," she said. "As states continue their everyday work to ensure reliable, clean and safe energy for Americans, their planning can continue in the direction of compliance, as the electricity power sector continues to evolve."

The EPA's final Clean Power Plan rule was issued on Aug. 3, 2015, and was published in the Federal Register on Oct. 23, clearing the way for parties to file legal action related to it. On Oct. 23, APPA and the Utility Air Regulatory Group filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit asking it to review the rule. Separately, APPA, UARG and several other parties on Oct. 23 asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to stay the final rule.

In late January, 25 states, led by West Virginia and Texas, asked the Supreme Court to stay the EPA rule.

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