Climate and Clean Energy Coalition Defends Clean Power Plan Against Foes' Court Challenge

For as long as there have been environmental regulations that protect the public health and promote economic growth, industry groups have claimed in lawsuits that these regulations will drive them and our economy as a whole to rack and ruin. (In fact, over the years, industry groups have cried wolf about car seat belts and air bags, leaded gasoline, and the removal of CFCs from aerosol cans and air conditioners. None of their predictions have come true. Just the opposite, actually. Regulations spurred creation of new industries and made Americans healthier and safer.)

So, it wasn't a big surprise this fall, once the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan to cut carbon pollution from the nation's electric sector became official, that industry groups, the nation's biggest coal-burning utilities, and 26 state attorneys general lined up to file suits against it. That's the case even though the CPP is projected to cut consumer energy costs by billions of dollars, create tens of thousands of new jobs, and save thousands of lives each year.

Not to get too technical about it, but those industry groups, utilities and attorneys general are trying to gum up the works however they can. And their latest ploy is to claim that the "harm" the CPP will allegedly cause is so imminent that the federal court--in this case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which hears cases related to federal regulations--should put a stay on implementation of the CPP--should put CPP implementation on hold--until the court decides their case in full, probably about a year from now. Stays, by the way, are highly unusual and require a strict showing of immediacy that the plaintiffs here can't deliver.

NRDC and a coalition of environmental, public health and business groups, including several of the nation's largest utilities, aren't planning on leaving those far-fetched claims unchecked. (Not incidentally, the utilities supporting the CPP are some of the nation's biggest and most forward-looking, including Calpine, National Grid, NextEra Energy, and Pacific Gas & Electric.) That's why, today, we filed court briefs aimed at preserving the implementation of the rule on its current timetable. "The CPP does not require any emission limitations to take effect until almost seven years from now," we wrote to the court, explaining how "harm" is in no way imminent. "Once in effect, emissions reductions will phase in gradually through 2030, over an eight-year averaging period that allows each state to determine the optimal 'glide path' for emission reduction." In fact, there's no evidence of near-term harm. On the contrary. Many states--including some of the plaintiffs in the case--"have already achieved average rates of emission reduction in recent years that exceed what is required" by the CPP, we explained to the court.

We are not alone in defending the CPP. Last month, 18 state attorneys general, five major cities, and one county filed briefs in support of the CPP. And, today, we've been joined by a host of experts in fields as diverse as utility regulation, climate science, and foreign policy, including no less an authority than former US Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. "The President's domestic efforts to secure progress on climate change have allowed the United States to maintain a strong leadership position on the issue of climate change around the world," she wrote to the court. The result of these efforts, of which the CPP is a major part? More than 180 countries, including China, the world's largest polluter, submitted greenhouse gas reduction goals in advance of the UN climate talks now underway in Paris.

The truth is, there's no "irreparable harm" to be done to the US Chamber of Commerce, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, or the State of Oklahoma if their misguided case goes ahead without a stay of implementation. Instead, we, the American people, are the ones who will suffer irreparable harm if the court allows delays in the CPP's implementation--us. The carbon dioxide our country's power plants pump out lingers in our atmosphere from hundreds of years, meaning the longer we postpone action to stop it, the more perilous our situation, and our kids lives, will become.

In a matter of weeks, the DC Court of Appeals is likely to rule on the industry's motion to stay implementation of the CPP. It shouldn't allow scare tactics and far-fetched claims to stop all the progress the CPP can bring.

About the Authors

David Doniger

Director, Climate & Clean Air program

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