The Clean Power Plan Has a Good Day in Court

September 27, 2016
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396,

(Washington, D.C. – September 27, 2016) Ten judges of the nation’s most powerful federal circuit court heard seven hours of oral argument today on the Clean Power Plan – the first national limits on climate pollution from America’s power plants. 

“This was a good day in court for America’s Clean Power Plan and for healthier air, a safer climate and economic prosperity,” said Vickie Patton, general counsel for Environmental Defense Fund, which was a party to the case. “It was a far-ranging and lively day of argument. The questions posed by the judges today reflected an understanding that the Clean Power Plan establishes eminently achievable emission reduction targets based on cost-effective, proven approaches that the power sector has been utilizing for decades – and is consistent with clean air policies adopted by Republican and Democratic administrations alike.”

Today’s argument featured impressive presentations from the broad and diverse suite of parties supporting the Clean Power Plan, including attorneys representing states and municipalities across the country, power companies that own a substantial portion of the nation’s generating capacity, clean energy companies, and environmental and public health organizations. 

The judges explored a number of issues – including the methodology that EPA used to establish the emission reduction requirements in the Clean Power Plan, the agency’s authority to regulate carbon pollution from existing power plants, and a variety of procedural and technical issues.

Among other highlights of today’s argument, the judges expressed deep skepticism of the Clean Power Plan opponents’ claims that EPA lacks authority to regulate carbon dioxide from existing power plants. Many of these same opponents urged the Supreme Court to rule only five years ago that section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act – the provision that is the basis for the Clean Power Plan – authorizes regulation of these emissions.  One judge noted that the opponents’ current position on this issue amounted to a “bait and switch.”

The Clean Power Plan now rests in the hands of the judges. Although no one can predict the outcome of the case based on today’s oral argument, supporters of the Clean Power Plan presented compelling and forceful arguments.

“In sports terms, we left it all out on the field,” said Patton. “It’s a privilege to be a part of this historic case to defend the Clean Power Plan in the race against time to address the climate crisis.”

# # #

Environmental Defense Fund (, a leading international nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on EDF Voices, Twitter and Facebook.