High-stakes legal fight looms over Clean Air Act requirements and EPA’s new Affordable Clean Energy Rule. - MIRATECH

High-stakes legal fight looms over Clean Air Act requirements and EPA’s new Affordable Clean Energy Rule.

July 1, 2019

Democratic state attorney generals and environmental groups are gearing up for what is expected to be a precedent-setting legal battle with the Trump administration over its rollback of an Obama-era power plant pollution rule, The Clean Power Plan, according to a June 23, 2019 report from The Hill. The Clean Air Act (CAA) requires such challenges within 60 days after a rule has been filed.

They argue the new Trump EPA plan – The Affordable Clean Energy Rule – won’t do enough to stop climate change and that the administration is ignoring CAA requirements that the federal government manage pollution that is harmful to human health.

“If it’s upheld, this new highly constrained legal interpretation that they’ve put forward here could really hinder the use of the Clean Air Act in the future as a tool for reducing climate-changing pollution,” said Lissa Lynch, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The EPA’s new rule is a replacement for former President Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) rule, which targeted emissions from coal plants and sought to move the country from its reliance on coal. The rule never took effect amid a number of legal challenges that are still moving through the courts. The replacement rule, unveiled by the Trump EPA on June 19th, is designed to give states more time and authority to decide how to implement new technology to ease net emissions from coal-fired plants.

The Trump administration argues that the Obama rule was too extreme, and their emissions replacement, the American Clean Energy (ACE) rule, focuses more narrowly on technology power plants can use to reduce their pollution. “This regulation does not cap emissions, does not set a state-wide cap or a facility cap — we don’t cap emissions, we limit emissions rates,” a top EPA official told reporters.

The decision not to cap emissions under the final rule has critics up in arms. They note that the CAA requires the EPA to regulate pollution from sources the agency has determined endangers public health and welfare. The agency has included power plants as one such source since the 1970s.

The legal battle will largely boil down to how much action the CAA requires of the EPA. Lawyers planning to sue over ACE say the rule is so weak it ignores EPA’s legal obligation to address harmful pollution. They will argue that the law compels the agency to take tougher steps.

Joseph Goffman, one of the original drafters of the CAA and a former associate assistant administrator for climate in EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation under Obama, said the EPA is taking “an extremely limited read” of the law. Goffman cautioned though that the legal outcome would be hard to predict.

What this means to you
A precedent setting legal fight looms over the Trump EPA’s Affordable Clean Energy Rule vs. Clean Air Act Requirements.

MIRATECH can help
Contact MIRATECH for stationary engine emissions solutions.