EPA Files Legal Brief in Defense of Carbon Pollution Standards for New Power Plants

December 15, 2016
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – December 15, 2016) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit laying out a strong and comprehensive defense of carbon pollution standards for new, modified, and reconstructed power plants.

The brief, which was filed last night in North Dakota v. EPA, says:

“Fossil-fuel-fired power plants are by far the highest-emitting stationary sources of CO2, generating approximately 37 percent of all domestic man-made CO2 emissions — almost three times as much as the next ten stationary-source categories combined … No serious effort to address the monumental problem of climate change can succeed without meaningfully limiting these plants’ CO2 emissions.” (EPA’s Brief, page 9)

“EPA’s brief underscores that these standards have a firm basis in the law. These protections are vital, common sense measures that will help safeguard the public from the worst dangers of climate change,” said Martha Roberts, attorney for Environmental Defense Fund, which is a party to the case. “We look forward to helping defend them in court.”

The standards being challenged in this case establish the first-ever nationwide limits on carbon pollution from new, modified, and reconstructed fossil fuel-fired power plants. Following the Clean Air Act, EPA set the standards at levels that reflect the best demonstrated pollution controls; for new coal-fired power plants, this included partial capture and storage of carbon pollution.

EDF, other intervenors, and amicus groups will file briefs in support of EPA on December 21. EDF is joined in this litigation by 18 states, nine power companies, and eight public health and environmental organizations. Three groups have requested permission to file amicus, or “friend of the court,” briefs in support of EPA’s standards — a coalition of experts in the field of carbon capture and storage, professors who research how government policy can drive innovation and cost savings, and the Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU School of Law.

Oral argument before a three judge panel of the D.C. Circuit is scheduled for April 17, 2017.

Already, states across the country, such as Illinois and Montana, apply standards or incentives to address carbon pollution from power plants.  

In a report released earlier this month, Governors Matt Mead of Wyoming and Steve Bullock of Montana highlighted the potential for carbon capture and storage to contribute to a “long-term low-carbon” future. (Putting the Puzzle Together, page i)

In 2011, American Electric Power Chairman Mike Morris talked to investors about his company’s experience implementing a carbon capture and storage pilot project and said, “We feel that we have demonstrated to a certainty that the carbon capture and storage is in fact viable technology for the United States and quite honestly for the rest of the world.”

EDF is also a party to litigation over the Clean Power Plan, which sets the first national standards for existing fossil fuel-fired power plants. You can find all legal briefs in both cases on EDF’s website.

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