Legal & Regulatory

Clean Power Plan Backers Petition Court in Support of EPA

A diverse coalition of major investor-owned utilities, public power authorities, and one of the largest independent power producers, as well as a combination of cities and states, clean energy groups, and environmental groups, filed briefs with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Clean Power Plan.

The involved power companies together own and operate more than 100,000 MW of generating capacity and include such names as Southern California Edison Co., Calpine Corp., National Grid Generation, New York Power Authority, and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. In their filing, the power companies said their “collective experience reducing emissions within their respective generation portfolios demonstrates the reasonableness and achievability of [the Clean Power Plan] goals.”

As for the states, 18 of them and the District of Columbia stepped up in support of the EPA, along with five cities and the second-most-populous county in Florida. In their brief, the coalition said, “The Clean Power Plan is a reasonable and legitimate exercise of EPA’s authority to limit harmful carbon-dioxide emissions from existing power plants.” Of course, the reason for the court proceeding is that the EPA is battling 26 other states that dispute that claim and oppose implementation of the Clean Power Plan.

Environmental groups strongly back the EPA’s plan. In a telephone press briefing on March 29, attorneys for four of the more prominent groups—Earthjustice, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club—presented arguments for why the rule should stand.

“We are confident the Clean Power Plan will prevail,” said Joanne Spalding, chief climate counsel for Sierra Club. “It uses sanctioned authority under the Clean Air Act to reduce carbon emissions, reinforces prevailing trends in the marketplace and in public opinion, and gives states flexibility to reach their goals.”

Sean Donahue, counsel for EDF, said, “Because the Clean Air Act directs EPA to identify demonstrated, cost-effective measures to reduce pollution and because the massive record shows that EPA did that job here, we are confident that EPA’s methodology will be upheld.”

Three trade associations—Advanced Energy Economy, American Wind Energy Association, and Solar Energy Industries Association—also submitted a brief in support of the EPA. Their argument, among other things, focused on Building Blocks 2 and 3 of the Clean Power Plan, which address shifting from coal to natural gas power plants and shifting generation to zero-emitting renewables, respectively. The associations said that they “have special expertise with respect to the Building Blocks 2 and 3 technologies” and they argued that both are “reasonable.”

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled to begin on June 2, 2016.

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)

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