US states wishing to set up multi-state carbon markets to meet EPA targets on power plant emissions will be able to do so without Senate approval, according to observers, refuting claims from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said last week that multi-state approaches to meeting targets under the EPA’s Clean Power Plan would count as “interstate compacts”, which require Senate approval – something McConnell said they would not get.
If correct, the Republican-dominated Senate would be able to stop in its tracks all attempts to establish regional emission markets, which is being considered by as many as 41 states.
But observers doubted McConnell’s statement.
“States don’t need to enter ‘compacts’ in order to cooperate in emissions trading arrangements,” Jackson Morris, director of eastern energy at the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), wrote.
“Although any group of states may cooperate in designing consistent plans, each state will generally submit its plan independently. In many cases, a state will choose to include provisions in its plan to recognize carbon credits from other states and allow sources in other states to use credits from the home state,” he wrote.
Morris said RGGI was a clear example of how states may join forces in a market mechanism without needing federal approval.
He was backed by Jamie Van Nostrand, professor of environmental law at the West Virginia University College of Law.
“I don’t think states voluntarily proceeding under a multi-state compliance strategy by collectively adopting model statutes/regulations, as the RGGI states did, would run afoul of Section 120(c),” he said, according to the Hill.
Jeff Holmstead, a former EPA administrator, told a conference last week that McConnell’s claims might have blindsided the EPA and could create legal problems for the bureau, which plans to finalise rules for the CPP this summer.
“I believe we are acting under the authority Congress gave us in the Clean Air Act,” current EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said.