A.G. Schneiderman Leads Coalition Against Coal-State Challenge To Federal Greenhouse-Gas Emissions Standards For Power Plants

Schneiderman’s coalition defending 2010 settlement with EPA to address power plant emissions that contribute to climate change

Schneiderman: “Combating climate change effectively requires every state to play by the same rules and do their fair share”

NEW YORK – Leading a coalition of 11 states, the City of New York, and the District of Columbia, New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office is filing a motion to intervene in a court challenge to a 2010 settlement agreement with the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that committed the agency to adopt greenhouse gas emissions standards for new and existing fossil-fuel electric generating power plants. The 2010 settlement agreement is being challenged by a coalition of 12 states, led by West Virginia, many of which are in coal-producing regions. The EPA has undertaken the rulemaking process for two rules to establish greenhouse gas emissions standards for power plants, in accordance with the settlement agreement.

“From extreme droughts to extreme storms, we’re already seeing impacts associated with uncontrolled climate change across the country – and we must rise to meet its challenge with all the urgency it demands,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Effectively combating climate change requires every state to play by the same set of rules and to do their fair share. I am proud to lead this coalition of states and to put New York at the forefront of this effort.”

Joining Attorney General Schneiderman in the motion filed today are the states of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the District of Columbia, and the City of New York.

In 2006, this coalition and others challenged the EPA’s then-refusal to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants under the federal Clean Air Act in the case New York v. EPA.  After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in its landmark 2007 decision Massachusetts v. EPA that carbon dioxide is an air pollutant subject to regulation under that federal law, the EPA was legally compelled to address greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. In 2010, in response to the coalition lawsuit, the EPA agreed to a schedule for proposing and taking final action on regulating greenhouse gas emissions from both new and existing power plants.

The EPA has since commenced the rulemaking process to limit climate change-causing pollution from power plants, including a January 2014 proposal to limit emissions from new power plants and a recent June proposal to limit emissions from existing power plants. The EPA’s June proposal on existing power plants seeks to establish a partnership between the EPA and the states—with EPA setting an emissions-reduction goal and the states deciding on the best cost-effective means of achieving those goals within each state. The EPA has been conducting hearings across the country on the rulemakings. The EPA estimates that between $55 billion and $93 billion in public health and climate benefits would result from implementing the power plant rules by 2030.

The lawsuit challenging the EPA’s commitments to limiting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants under the New York v. EPA settlement agreement was filed by the States of West Virginia, Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming.

The motion filed today by Schneiderman’s coalition in the U.S.  Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia disputes the West Virginia claim that invalidating the 2010 agreement would block the ongoing EPA rulemaking and seeks, among other things, to ensure that the EPA encounters no further delays in finalizing the rules.

Power plants that generate electricity from coal, oil, and natural gas are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, contributing almost one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the country.  Left unchecked, climate change – spurred by greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other sources – threatens public health, safety, the environment, and our economy by increasing the spread of disease and heat-related illness, increasing the frequency and severity of extreme rainfall in some areas and drought in other areas, damaging coastal areas through rising sea levels, disrupting natural ecosystems, and reducing the availability of drinking water in many areas.

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Michael J. Myers, Morgan Costello, and Brian Lusignan of the Environmental Protection Bureau, with support from Deputy Bureau Chief Lisa M. Burianek, Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg, and First Deputy for Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel.  

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