Clean Power Plan: States Say EPA's New Power Plant Rules 'Unlawfully' Left Out Crucial Data

Wyoming Coal Mine Clean Power Plan
Coal is transported via conveyor belt to the coal-fired Jim Bridger Power Plant in Wyoming. Fossil fuel-reliant states have accused Obama of a war on coal amid the EPA Clean Power Plan proposed rule.

The attorneys general from 13 coal-reliant states say the Obama administration broke the law last June when it proposed a plan to slash carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants. The officials contend that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency omitted crucial supporting information when announcing the rule -- an error that invalidates the agency’s proposal, they say.

Led by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, the group wrote in a letter on Monday that the Clean Air Act requires federal environmental officials to provide a wide range of data when it proposes certain regulations, The Hill reported. That includes “the factual data on which the proposed rule is based … the methodology used in obtaining the data and in analyzing the data and … the major legal interpretations and policy considerations underlying the proposed rule,” according to the letter.

“Finalizing a rule without providing parties with the technical information necessary for meaningful comment renders the final rule unlawful,” officials wrote to EPA chief administrator Gina McCarthy. 

Under the proposed Clean Power Plan, the EPA would require states to reduce a certain percentage of their heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions, as well as submit plans to the agency by 2016 to prove how they’ll make those cuts. Nationwide, the rules are supposed to cut carbon output to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Coal-producing states, along with states reliant on coal-fired electricity, have broadly rejected the proposed plan. They say it will cripple the nation’s coal industry and raise electricity costs for businesses and homeowners. The EPA admits that coal use -- the single largest U.S. source of carbon emissions -- will decline under the plan. But the agency projects that coal will still account for about 30 percent of total U.S. electricity generation come 2030.

Morrisey said that the missing EPA data is “another blatant example of this agency’s disregard for the rule of law. The public has a clear right to know how EPA reached its conclusions,” according to his statement. “It is abundantly clear that EPA and the Obama administration will not allow anything to get in the way of enacting these illegal, burdensome regulations on coal-fired power plants.”

As a result of these "clear violations," the attorneys general wrote, the EPA should immediately withdraw the rule and propose it again with the correct data.

EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia said is confident that the power plant rule is on solid legal ground, The Hill noted.

Along with West Virginia, the letter was signed by attorneys general from Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Nearly all of those states, plus Kentucky, are separately suing the EPA in an effort to derail the Clean Power Plan. The lawsuit, similar to one filed by coal mining company Murray Energy Corp., disputes the EPA’s authority to adopt rules like the Clean Power Plan in the first place.

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