Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Updated: U.S. Supreme Court Puts EPA Clean Power Climate Plan On Hold, Report: DEP Will Continue Its Efforts

In a 5 to 4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday issued an order putting a hold EPA’s Clean Power Climate Plan until challenges to the regulation can be heard by the Federal Appeals Court.  Court arguments are set to begin June 2.
A coalition of 27 states and industry opponents challenged the rule saying it was an “unprecedented power grab” by EPA.
The AP reported that to convince the high court to temporarily halt the plan, opponents had to convince the justices that there was a "fair prospect" the court would strike down the rule. The court also had to consider whether denying a stay would cause irreparable harm to the states and utility companies affected.
The Washington Post quoted a White House spokesperson as saying, “Even while the litigation proceeds, EPA has indicated it will work with states that choose to continue plan development and will prepare the tools those states will need. At the same time, the Administration will continue to take aggressive steps to make forward progress to reduce carbon emissions.”
John Pippy, PA Coal Alliance CEO, said in a statement reacting to the ruling: “We are pleased with the Supreme Court’s action today. The legal standard to achieve a stay is extremely high and in doing so, the Supreme Court has recognized that the Clean Power Plan could cause irreparable harm to this country’s citizens, economy and energy sector. This decision reinforces the importance of Pennsylvania taking it’s time in voluntary early compliance with overreaching regulations on industries such as energy where state primacy has presided.”
The Allegheny Front radio program Tweeted Wednesday morning DEP “will continue planning and engagement with stakeholders on the Clean Power Plan.”
DEP Secretary John Quigley has said Pennsylvania does not have that far to go to reach the greenhouse gas emission reductions required by the EPA Clean Power Climate Plan.
He credited the switch from coal to natural gas for electric generation as the primary reason greenhouse gas emissions were reduced by 27 million tons a year from 2007 to 2014 to about 107 million tons and put the state within reasonable striking distance of the meeting EPA’s Clean Power Climate Plan reductions.
He said the final EPA Clean Power Climate Plan requires Pennsylvania to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1 million tons annually by 2022 (7 years from now) and another 15 million tons annually by 2030 (15 years from now).
A copy of the Supreme Court order is available online.
In Pennsylvania
The Wolf Administration has said it would submit Pennsylvania’s plan to comply with the Clean Power Plan by the September deadline set by EPA and would not ask EPA for a 2 year extension.
In the General Assembly, several efforts are underway to delay submission of Pennsylvania’s Clean Power Plan.
The Fiscal Code bill-- House Bill 1327 (Peifer-R-Pike)-- that was part of the initial budget package, but never passed, contained a provision that establish further hoops any Pennsylvania Clean Power Plan would have to go through before it is submitted to EPA under a law passed in 2014.
On Monday, Sen. Don White (R-Indiana) began circulating a co-sponsor memo to put this same language in a stand-alone bill.
Sen. Pat Stefano (R-Fayette) last week introduced Senate Resolution 277 urging DEP to delay implementation of the Clean Power Rule for 2 years.
DEP has taken a number of other steps to address climate change issues in the last few weeks.
At the beginning of this month, DEP released its update to the Climate Change Action Plan for public comment.  Broader than the EPA Clean Power Plan, the Action Plan recommends greenhouse gas emission reduction strategies across 13 specific sectors.
In January, DEP proposed new regulations limiting methane emissions from the oil and gas industry to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
Other Reaction
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s action, PennFuture is calling for a redoubling of Pennsylvania's efforts to take immediate and decisive action to reduce carbon emissions.
"We are optimistic that the legal merits of the Clean Power Plan will ultimately hold up in court.  This ruling only serves to needlessly delay critical action on climate," said Larry J. Schweiger, president and CEO of PennFuture. "It is imperative that Pennsylvania continues to take aggressive action to achieve the goals of the Clean Power Plan and reduce carbon pollution by at least one third of 2005 levels by 2030.
"This is a calculated effort brought by politically conservative states and well-funded fossil fuel interests, not the will of the people," said Schweiger. "The Clean Power Plan has overwhelming public support in Pennsylvania and across the United States.
"With investment in renewables and energy efficiency on the rise and low-carbon innovation accelerating, the smart money is on clean energy. Citizens know it. Policy makers know it. And the energy sector knows it," added Schweiger. "It is disappointing that government is stuck in the past, but the markets and people will look to the future and that future depends on clean energy.
"The reality is that the failing economics of coal and the boom and bust cycle of the natural gas industry is not only damaging our planet, but also harming our communities and economy. We need aggressive action on carbon reductions and a strong climate action plan for Pennsylvania now regardless of what the federal government does," said Schweiger.  
For more information on activities related to the EPA Clean Power Plan in PA, visit DEP’s Climate Change webpage.

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