EDF, Partners Urge D.C. Circuit to Decide Clean Power Plan Lawsuit

May 15, 2017
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – May 15, 2017) Environmental Defense Fund and a coalition of 14 other public health and environmental organizations filed a brief today urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to rule on the merits in the litigation over the Clean Power Plan, America’s only nationwide standards limiting harmful carbon pollution from existing fossil fuel power plants.   

“The Environmental Protection Agency has a clear responsibility under our nation’s clean air laws to protect the public from the massive quantities of harmful carbon pollution emitted by fossil fuel power plants,” said Tomás Carbonell, Lead Attorney for Environmental Defense Fund, which is a party to the case. “Americans in red and blue states alike have been waiting for the Environmental Protection Agency to fulfill that obligation for almost twenty years, and can’t afford any further delay in implementing the vital climate and health protections of the Clean Power Plan.”

Today’s filing by the public health and environmental organizations notes: 

“The Clean Air Act requires EPA to protect citizens from dangerous air pollutants.  The effort to curb power plants’ dangerous carbon dioxide pollution began nearly 20 years ago, and with each year of delay, the blanket of heat-trapping pollution in the atmosphere thickens … Once emitted, each additional ton of carbon dioxide causes harm that is irreversible: much of that carbon dioxide persists in the atmosphere  for centuries. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA must address that peril.” (Brief, pages 1 and 2)

Other parties supporting the Clean Power Plan also filed, or are expected to file, briefs today, including 18 states and 7 municipalities, power companies representing nearly 10 percent of the nation’s generation, and associations representing America’s vibrant $200 billion clean energy industry

The briefs all respond to a D.C. Circuit order issuing a temporary abeyance in the case. The court directed all parties to the litigation to submit briefs on whether to continue the abeyance or instead terminate the case and hand the Clean Power Plan back to the Environmental Protection Agency for further review (known as “remand”).

The Clean Power Plan is a common sense climate and public health protection that will reduce harmful carbon pollution from existing power plants – one of the nation’s largest sources of that pollution. The Clean Power Plan is expected to save thousands of lives each year once it is implemented.  

Coal producers, coal-intensive power companies, and their political allies have been waging a massive, years-long litigation campaign to obstruct this safeguard – a campaign that recently got an assist when the Trump Administration issued an executive order that took aim at the Clean Power Plan and many other vital clean air protections. Just hours after that executive order was signed, the Administration filed a motion in the D.C. Circuit demanding an indefinite pause in the litigation while the Environmental Protection Agency undertakes the long process of reviewing – and likely rescinding or weakening – the Clean Power Plan.

As legal experts have noted, and as the health and environmental groups argue in their brief, the Administration’s arguments in favor of its request to place the Clean Power Plan litigation in indefinite abeyance have little force in this situation, where massive investments of resources have already been made by the court and all the parties to the case. Because the Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 to temporarily block enforcement of the Clean Power Plan for the duration of the litigation, the Administration’s motion for abeyance would also indefinitely delay the enforcement of these urgently needed and long-overdue limits on carbon pollution.  

Regardless of how the court rules on today’s filings, there is firm legal precedent establishing that the Environmental Protection Agency has a clear legal obligation to protect the public from carbon pollution. The Supreme Court has affirmed the agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act three times since 2007, including affirming its authority to limit carbon pollution from power plants under the Clean Air Act provision that is the basis for the Clean Power Plan. 

Environmental Defense Fund stands ready and resolved – together with millions of Americans across the country – to ensure that the Environmental Protection Agency fulfills that vital obligation. 

You can find more information – including all legal documents in the case – on EDF’s website.

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