Industry Groups Join States To Challenge Final Rules For EPA’s Clean Power Plan

The White Bluff power plant near Redfield, one that Entergy Arkansas is closing because of new emmission standards.
Credit Arkansas Business

Less than a full business day after the final rules for President Obama’s Clean Power Plan were published on Friday in the Federal Register, legal challenges from industry groups to halt the new greenhouse gas rules are already piling up at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Groups ranging from the National Association of Manufacturing (NAM) and the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Public Power Association (APPA) are uniting to ask the Washington, D.C.-based appeals court to stay the Environmental Protection Agency’s drastically limit carbon emissions at existing power plants over the next 15 years.

In a news release issued late Friday, U.S. steel lobby group AISI said it had joined 15 other business associations in filing a court challenge the EPA regulations that were finalized last week.

“This rule puts the affordability of electricity for steel producers at serious risk. The leading states for iron and steel production in the U.S. are heavily dependent on coal for electricity production,” said AISI President and CEO Thomas Gibson. “This rule will have a disproportionate impact on steel states and hinder economic growth for steel producers.”

Gibson said the new rule would have a disproportionate impact on “steel states” and hinders economic growth for steel producers. According to AISI, there are more than 5,400 jobs direct jobs created by the state’s steel industry, along with another 37,000 that are indirectly supported by the trade group’s nine member companies with operations in Arkansas.

If the new EPA rules are allowed to be fully implemented, Gibson said electricity prices nationwide will increase between 6%-7%. He said this electricity economic impact will be exacerbated for the steel industry due to the regional differences in current fuel mix and the cost to switch to other fuels for the generation of electricity.

“These new regulations put steel producers in the U.S. at a disadvantage against competitors in other nations that generally have higher rates of greenhouse gas emissions, and many of which benefit from subsidized energy costs,” Gibson said. “This would have a devastating impact on the steel industry and our workers.”

In addition to the steel lobby, the APPA and the Utility Air Regulatory Group (UARG) also filed a petition Friday on behalf of the power industry asking the federal appeals court to review the EPA’s so-called Section 111 (d) rule to cut “dirty air” pollution by 870 million tons, or 32% below 2005 levels, in 2030. In Arkansas, the initial Arkansas target of 46% reduction in carbon emissions has been lowered to 37%.

According to the statement published at the APPA’s Public Power Daily portal, the two industry groups said the EPA believes the Clean Air Act gives it “unprecedented authority” to require states to restructure the nation’s energy industry by reducing the electricity generated primarily by coal-fired power plants to EPA-favored renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

“This shift will substantially increase costs to the public and jeopardize the reliability of the nation’s electricity system,” the utility lobby said its court motion.

Besides the industry groups, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge as expected announced Friday she had joined 23 other states in filing a lawsuit arguing that EPA has no legal authority “to promulgate or enforce the section 111(d) rule.”

“In a state like Arkansas where over half of the electricity is responsibly generated from coal-fired power plants, the impact will be felt in the pocketbooks of Arkansas utility ratepayers,” the Arkansas AG said.

Rutledge joined challenges by attorney generals in Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The Arizona Corporation Commission and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality are also part of the states’ challenge.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality also filed a separate petition Friday afternoon asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for a review of rule 111 (d).

Following publication of the final rules in the Federal Register, the EPA will accept comments on for the next 90 days until Jan. 21. The Hutchinson administration has already moved forward with stakeholder meetings to design an Arkansas-specific plan to comply with the EPA rules in case the plethora of legal challenges fail to halt the cornerstone of President Obama’s climate change policy.