21 states tell EPA to avoid ‘sue and settle’ lawsuits

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Officials from 21 states have written to the Environmental Protection Agency urging them not to allow lawsuits from environmental groups to force new carbon dioxide emissions limits on power plants.

“Appropriate process should not be subjugated, and effective policymaking cannot be forced to fruition by threatening litigation,” wrote the attorneys general from 21 states, including Luther Strange of Alabama, Pam Bondi of Florida, Dustin McDaniel of Arkansas and Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma.

“We therefore request that EPA refrain from allowing petitioners to unduly influence the policymaking process via settlement negotiations,” the letter continued.

Some of the state attorneys general that signed this recent letter have expressed concerns in the past about environmentalists using the legal system to push the EPA to issue ever stricter environmental regulations — a process known as “sue and settle.”

Republicans and industry claim that “sue and settle” allows the EPA and environmental groups to collude and craft more extensive environmental regulations while locking out businesses and states affected by the new rules.

“The EPA is instead making environmental policy on its own and with special interest groups and then forcing the states to comply with these new policies. This is far from what Congress had in mind,” a conservative environmental lawyer close to the issue told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

One proposed rule has been criticized for effectively banning the construction of new coal-fired power plants unless they utilize carbon capture technology, which the industry says is not commercially viable. Democratic senators have also criticized the EPA’s new emissions rule for targeting the coal industry.

“Such a requirement is unprecedented under the Clean Air Act and will have the unfortunate effect of preventing the construction of new coal plants or the upgrading of existing sources,” wrote Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana in a letter to President Obama. “We urge you to consider an alternative approach.”

Environmental groups and ten states announced this week that they will wait to pursue legal action against the EPA until the Obama administration unveils its plan to tackle global warming. Earlier this year, the EPA delayed a controversial rule that would slap new power plants with carbon dioxide emissions limits.

“Climate change is a real and increasing threat to our health, safety, and economy. While the Obama Administration has pledged to combat climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency has now missed the deadline for adopting New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new fossil fuel power plants,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in April.

Not all Democrats agree, however.

“After all, experts agree that emissions from all U.S. power plants have only a marginal impact on global emissions, and this already small share is shrinking every year, as China, India, and others dramatically scale up their fossil fuel use,” Manchin said.

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