Lawsuit against EPA delayed until Obama unveils new climate plan

Michael Bastasch | Contributor

State governments and environmental groups are delaying a planned lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency.

Two months ago, the EPA delayed finalizing a controversial rule that would have put carbon dioxide emissions limits on new power plants and effectively ban coal plants. Three environmental groups, ten states and two cities planned to file suit against the agency over the delay, but they decided to hold back on the news that the Obama administration will soon unveil its plan to tackle global warming.

“Due to public reports that the president will be announcing major action on climate change very soon, the Attorney General has decided to postpone a lawsuit on this matter for a short period,” said a spokeswoman for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is leading the effort.

“Our joint intention is to not file suit today and to see with great interest what the administration announces,” David Hawkins of the Natural Resources Defense Council told the Platts news service, adding that the Obama administration did not ask them to hold off on the lawsuit.

Last week, President Barack Obama reportedly told campaign donors that he will unveil his plans to address global warming, which could include using the EPA to curb power plant emissions.

The EPA’s proposed limits on new power plants have been harshly criticized because they would effectively ban the construction of coal-fired power plants unless they utilized carbon capture technology — which the industry says is not commercially viable.

While 10 states have expressed their intent to sue the EPA over the delay, another seven states’ governors have written to the EPA asking them to reconsider their emissions rule.

“The EPA’s proposed limits on greenhouse gas emissions threaten the livelihood of our coal miners to the point of killing jobs and crippling our state and national economies, while also weakening our country’s efforts toward energy independence,” said West Virginia Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

“Our ability to continue growing our economy depends on affordable, reliable power–and this can only be guaranteed if our nation truly has a diversified portfolio that included coal,” Kentucky Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear wrote to the EPA last month. Asking some states to dramatically alter their potential source of fuel for generating electricity puts their citizens at a distinct economic disadvantage.”

EPA regulations are already projected to shut down more than 280 coal-fired generating units, according to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

“EPA continues to downplay the damage its regulations are causing to the U.S. economy and to the many states that depend on coal for jobs and affordable electricity,” said Mike Duncan, president and CEO of ACCCE.

Some have speculated that the EPA delayed finalizing the new power plant rules in order to create a separate standard for coal plants, so they can be built without having to install carbon capture technology.

“I have not heard or had it implied to me that there’s serious consideration to setting some separate standard for coal plants,” Hawkins told Platts, adding that environmental groups intending to sue the EPA have not yet decided on how long they would wait for the Obama administration.

Environmentalists hope that recent small steps to address global warming taken by the Obama administration — such as the deal to limit ozone emissions with China — signal the beginning of a bigger push to address global warming.

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