W. Va. Leads Arguments Against Obama's Clean Power Plan

Sep 28, 2016

 West Virginia led the charge against the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan yesterday in a day-long hearing at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. 

President Barack Obama introduced the Clean Power Plan last fall to significantly reduce carbon emissions to meet targets established at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change last year. The plan would require states to significantly reduce  carbon emissions and incentivize investments in renewable energy. But the arguments made on Tuesday were less about the urgent need to stymie climate change and more about the constitutionality of the Plan. Opponents countered that the Environmental Protection Agency is undermining the system of checks and balances by essentially commandeering states to create a new energy structure. 

The case was determined by the Circuit Court to be so important that all 10 judges, as opposed to the usual three, needed to hear a full day of arguments in the packed courtroom where some in the audience had waited in line for hours to guarantee a seat. David Doniger, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at The Natural Resources Defense Council, said the most interesting argument he heard was from a lawyer representing West Virginia. 

"There’s one thing that the West Virginia council said that really struck me. They’re trying to make the argument that if the result of the rule is to require the states to issue permits for new sources of have public utilities commission do their normal work, that this is a terrific invasion of state turf," he said. "If that were right, every other part of the Clean Air Act would be equally problematic."

While supporters say that the plan would spur investment in renewable energy, opponents say it would hurt an already ailing coal industry and drive up the cost of electricity. West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito said after the hearing that the economic impact would have an exponential impact on the state economy. 

"It’s not just the coal worker. It’s not just the coal company. It’s the railroad. It’s the tire people. It’s the cars, the truck people," she said.  

The EPA argued that this kind of regulation is not unusual and that all regulation has market effects. 

The issue likely won’t won’t be resolved until after a new president is sworn in. It is expected that the decision will be appealed to the Supreme Court.