EPA Files Powerful Defense of the Clean Power Plan in Court

March 28, 2016
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – March 28, 2016) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) submitted a powerful defense of the Clean Power Plan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit today.

Opponents have been challenging the historic measure to reduce climate pollution and protect public health since before EPA was done writing it, but this is the first time that any court is considering the case on its merits. EPA filed its brief in support of the Clean Power Plan today, writing: 

“The [Clean Power Plan] will secure critically important reductions in carbon dioxide (“CO2”) emissions from what are by far the largest emitters in the United States—fossil-fuel-fired power plants. CO2 and other heat-trapping greenhouse-gas emissions pose a monumental threat to Americans’ health and welfare by driving long-lasting changes in our climate, leading to an array of severe negative effects, which will worsen over time. These effects include rising sea levels that could flood coastal population centers; increasingly frequent and intense weather events such as storms, heat waves, and droughts; impaired air and water quality; shrinking water supplies; the spread of infectious disease; species extinction; and national security threats …

“The Clean Air Act … provides the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) well-established authority to abate threats to public health and welfare by limiting the amount of air pollution that power plants pump into the atmosphere. For decades, a host of CAA regulatory programs have limited various pollutants emitted by these plants … 

“The [Clean Power Plan] reflects the eminently reasonable exercise of EPA’s recognized statutory authority. It will achieve cost-effective CO2 reductions from an industry that has already demonstrated its ability to comply with robust pollution-control standards through the same measures and flexible approaches. The Rule fulfills both the letter and spirit of Congress’s direction in the Act, and the petitions should be denied … 

“This critically important Rule marks a significant step forward in addressing the Nation’s most urgent environmental threat. Fossil-fuel-fired power plants are, far and away, the largest stationary sources of CO2 pollution, and no meaningful effort to abate climate change can fail to address them. EPA’s authority and responsibility under Section 111(d) to control this pollution is well-established and was central to the Supreme Court’s holding in AEP that ‘the [CAA] and the EPA actions it authorizes displace any federal common-law right to seek abatement of [CO2] emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants.’ 564 U.S. at 424. EPA has properly performed its Congressionally assigned task to limit this pollution.” (Brief, pages 1, 3 and 25) 

Environmental Defense Fund is a party to the case and will file a brief in support of the Clean Power Plan tomorrow, along with a broad and diverse coalition that includes numerous states, cities, power companies, clean energy companies, public health and medical associations, and environmental organizations.

“EPA’s brief forcefully demonstrates that the Clean Power Plan complies with our nation’s clean air laws and is anchored in a robust factual record,” said Tomás Carbonell, EDF’s Director of Regulatory Policy and Senior Attorney. “The Clean Power Plan is vital to protecting public health and providing a safer climate for our children, and it will make our economy stronger.  We look forward to adding our brief to the powerful defense that EPA filed today, together with a broad and diverse coalition of allies supporting these essential standards.” 

Other supporters of the Clean Power Plan will file amicus, or “friend of the court,” briefs this Friday. Oral arguments will take place on June 2 before a three-judge panel.

The Clean Power Plan establishes the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from fossil-fuel fired power plants. Fossil fuel-fired power plants are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, accounting for almost 40 percent of the country’s carbon pollution. 

EPA estimates that by 2030, the Clean Power Plan will:

    • Reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants 32 percent below 2005 levels
    • Save 3,600 lives annually
    • Prevent 90,000 childhood asthma attacks annually
    • Save American families almost $85 on their annual energy bill

You can find more about the Clean Power Plan, including all legal briefs in the case, on EDF’s website. 

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