Ranks and Hackles—COP21 and Judicial Review of the Clean Power Plan

By Joel B. Stronberg,

The complex case of West Virginia v. EPA illustrates the uncertainty injected into the national effort of the U.S. to meet its COP21 commitments, as a result of day-to-day realities. The case is the basis for the Supreme Court’s (SCOTUS) staying the implementation of the Clean Power Plan (CPP or Plan). It is the lynchpin holding up the U.S. promise made in Paris.

The Plan ranks as one of the most controversial environmental regulations ever promulgated by EPA. It rankles the sensibilities of climate deniers and raises the hackles of 200 sitting senators and representatives, who joined the case as friends of the plaintiff 27 states and assorted coal companies. Literally hundreds of other parties have weighed in on both sides of the legal arguments, including: past members of Congress, utilities and independent power producers, business organizations, medical professionals, faith groups, regulatory commissioners, local government organizations, renewable energy and environmental organizations, labor unions, former Secretaries of State and Defense, former EPA Administrators and a career State Department diplomat.

Simple Framing of the Argument

EPA published its proposed “Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Electric Utility Generating Units” on June 18, 2014. Since its publication, the proposed clean air regulation has been the subject of numerous law suits. The legal challenges began well before the final Rule was ever published in the Federal Register—starting with Murray Energy Corporation (a coal company) and the states of West Virginia, Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming filing petitions for review in the D.C. Circuit.