A number of US states have vowed to carry on drawing up strategies to implement the EPA’s Clean Power Plan despite the Supreme Court’s ruling this week to stay the divisive measure.
The immediate future of the plan, President Barack Obama’s main climate initiative and the key tool for the US to meet its Paris pledge on emission cuts, was left uncertain Tuesday when the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to stay its implementation until legal challenges have been resolved.
The Court backed claims from a coalition of 27 mostly Republican-led states arguing it would be damaging to their economies even to draw up CPP implementation plans until there is a final ruling on their case, which asserts that the EPA’s rule is illegal and represents federal government overreach.
But on Wednesday at least four states – California, Colorado, Virginia and Washington – pledged to continue implementing the plan despite the Court rule, while a New York-led coalition of 14 states issued a statement stressing their continued support of the CPP.
“As this court case moves forward, we will stay on course and continue to develop the elements for a Virginia plan to reduce carbon emissions and stimulate our clean energy economy,” Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said in a statement.
Colorado echoed this view.
“The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has been working since last summer to develop a plan to achieve the Clean Power Plan’s carbon reduction targets for Colorado. The department will continue to coordinate with stakeholders to develop this state plan during the litigation,” the department said.
However, at least three states involved in the lawsuit – Montana, Texas, and West Virginia – have publicly announced that they have ordered a cessation of work on their CPP plans.
According to the Associated Press, Montana Governor Steve Bullock on Tuesday suspended the work of a panel appointed to address the new federal rules, which if enacted in their current form would impose a 47% cut on Montana, the steepest emissions reduction target of any state.
The Democratic governor has previously called the state’s goal unfair, but on Tuesday said “what we cannot put on hold, however, is the need to address climate change and embrace Montana’s energy future, and I am committed to ensuring we do so on our own terms.”
CARBON TRADING STATES TO STAY THE COURSE
Support for the CPP, which aims to cut overall carbon emissions from existing and new coal-fired power plants in the US to 32% below 2005 levels by 2030, has been strong in states that operate or plan to introduce cap-and-trade schemes.
“As the world gets hotter and closer to irreversible climate change, these [Supreme Court] justices appear tone-deaf as they fiddle with procedural niceties. This arbitrary roadblock does incalculable damage and undermines America’s climate leadership,” said Jerry Brown, governor of California, which operates the biggest carbon market in the United States with ties to Quebec and Ontario.
“But make no mistake, this won’t stop California from continuing to do its part under the Clean Power Plan.”
Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, whose administration last month released details of a planned state carbon market, also vowed to move forward with the CPP.
“We cannot afford to wait any longer for federal action to address carbon pollution and transition to clean energy … The EPA’s Clean Power Plan remains a crucial tool to ensure that every state must do its part, and to empower them to do so,” he said.
Meanwhile, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued a statement on behalf of 14 states and six cities backing the EPA plan.
“We are confident that once the courts have fully reviewed the merits of the Clean Power Plan, it will be upheld as lawful under the Clean Air Act. Our coalition of states and local governments will continue to vigorously defend the Clean Power Plan —which is critical to ensuring that necessary progress is made in confronting climate change,” the statement said.
The coalition includes seven of the nine RGGI states as well as California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia, Washington DC and Washington state.
The Supreme Court ruling means it is likely that states will not have to submit implementation plans to the EPA on Sep. 6 this year as set out in the EPA’s model rule. Many states would likely have taken advantage of the provision to only submit initial plans this year and final plans in Sep. 2018, especially those considering co-operating with other states on meeting their targets.
A vast majority of the 47 states facing targets under the CPP are considering using cap-and-trade to meet their goals.
Hearings on the court cases launched against the Clean Power Plan begin on June 2 at a Washington DC appeals court, and some observers expect proceedings to carry on into 2017.
If the plan survives all legal challenges, the first formal compliance date for states falls in 2022, but that could now be extended if the lawsuits drag on.
By Stian Reklev – firstname.lastname@example.org