AG: EPA’s ‘Cap-And-Trade Scheme’ Would Violate The Clean Air Act

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The Environmental Protection Agency’s upcoming climate rule that would push policies like cap and trade violates the Clean Air Act and will be challenged in court by the states, said Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.

News reports have said the EPA’s carbon dioxide regulations would force states to significantly lower their emissions from existing power plants. The agency will reportedly give the states a menu of options to choose from to lower emissions, including cap-and-trade schemes.

But cajoling the states into imposing cap-and-trade on their energy sectors would be in violation of the Clean Air Act and almost certainly face numerous legal challenges from states and the coal industry, said Pruitt.

“The Clean Air Act clearly sets out a role for EPA to suggest guidelines, while granting states authority to develop and implement specific proposals to achieve the goals of the Clean Air Act,” Pruitt told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“Should the EPA’s proposed regulation force states to adopt a ‘cap and trade’ scheme or any other specific proposal, it would violate the law and likely be challenged in court,” he said.

Pruitt has set out a plan that he says “properly construes” the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act. Called OKAG Plan, Pruitt’s plan would have the EPA design the guidelines for emissions reductions and the states set the actual emissions standards for their power plants.

OKAG Plan differs from what others have argued the EPA should do in that it institutes what’s called a unit-by-unit plan — which means that each power plant would have their own unique emissions standards as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach.

“It is not feasible for EPA to establish any assumed numeric efficiency to any existing unit, much less a numerical standard for the approximately 1,200 coal-fired EGUs in the country,” wrote a coalition of states’ environmental protection agency heads.

Environmental regulators from nine states — including North Carolina, Alabama and West Virginia — said, “the  EPA should ensure that its guidelines allow states to set GHG performance standards that are based on measures that can be applied at each EGU rather than include activities beyond the unit itself.”

“The OKAG Plan preserves state primacy and does not turn over management of local generation fleets to EPA under the guise of ‘flexibility,’ according to OKAG Plan.

But news reports about the EPA’s upcoming rules for existing power plants suggest the agency did not consider the wishes of some states. The Wall Street Journal reported the proposal will “include a cap-and-trade component where a limit is set on emissions and companies can trade allowances or credits for emissions” to meet new federal rules.

Power plant operators could also “trade emissions credits or use other offsets in the power sector, such as renewable energy or energy-efficiency programs, to meet the target,” according to the Journal.

This would be a boon to states that already have cap-and-trade systems, like California and a group of nine East Coast states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The White House is selling this option as a “flexible” one, even though it would likely result in the closing of more coal-fired power plants.

White House energy and climate adviser Dan Utech said the rule is “going to enable states to move forward in a way that works best for them with the energy resources they have.”

But a U.S. Chamber of Commerce report from Wednesday found that EPA’s climate rule would cost $50 billion per year — the most expensive the agency has come up with. The chamber report also found that an additional 114 gigawatts of coal-fired power would be shut down — 40 percent of the coal fleet.

Even the drastic cuts to carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. would do nothing to lower global emissions. Developing nations’ rapidly increasing carbon dioxide emissions will outpace any cuts made here in the U.S. — negating efforts to fight global warming.

“To put this in perspective, the International Energy Agency estimates that over the 2011-30 forecast period, the rest of the world will increase its power sector CO2 emissions by nearly 4,700 million metric tons (MMT), or 44 percent,” the chamber noted. “Those non-U.S. global emissions increases are more than six times larger than the U.S. reductions achieved in the Policy Case from 2014-30.”

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