Coal utilities claim the EPA is using the Clean Air Act to crush their industry.
Greenhouse Gas Rules at Issue
The Environmental Protection Agency is in federal court to determine if it has overstepped its bounds.
Industrial plaintiffs are saying that while EPA has been given the right by the U.S. Supreme Court to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, the data that the agency used to make a case is faulty and the manner in which it would carry out that obligation is arbitrary. Opponents are not likely to win the broader “endangerment” argument but they could get certain provisions peeled back.
The plaintiffs, which include American Electric Power and Southern Co., are saying that the EPA got the science wrong and that the new regs, particularly the “tailoring rule” that limits carbon-related releases, would hurt almost all businesses. Higher electricity rates will then ensue while it would be nearly impossible to build coal-fired power plants without carbon capture and sequestration technology.
The High Court ruled in 2007 that EPA had the right to regulate greenhouse gas emissions if it found that they harmed the public health and the environment. EPA made just such a proclamation in 2009. Because it went into meticulous detail as to how it arrived to that conclusion, the courts are expected to uphold that finding.
However, the coal-fired utilities hope to prevail with respect to the “tailoring rule.” Issued in 2010, that rule established a timeline for the biggest emitters to begin tracking their greenhouse gases and to apply for permits. Last year, EPA set that threshold at 100,000 tons per year for new plants and 75,000 tons a year for existing facilities.
Utilities must eventually show that they are using the best available technologies to curb those carbon-related releases. EPA estimates that 10,000 plants and factories would be affected -- units that produce about 85 percent of all such emissions.