Court indefinitely halts suit on Obama new power plant rule

Source: Amanda Reilly, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, August 11, 2017

A federal court yesterday ¬†indefinitely suspended litigation over the Obama administration’s climate rule for new power plants.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an order holding the case in abeyance pending further action from the court. U.S. EPA is required to file status reports at 90-day intervals.

The Obama EPA finalized the rule at issue in August 2015, requiring both new and modified fossil-fuel-fired power plants to meet carbon dioxide limits. The standards for coal plants can’t be met by efficiency improvements alone, meaning operators of new power plants will have to capture carbon and sequester it in deep saline formations.

Along with the Clean Power Plan, which covers existing power plants, the rule was at the center of the Obama administration’s climate change agenda.

A host of industry entities and states challenged the rule, arguing EPA exceeded its authority and failed to show that carbon capture and storage is a viable technology (Greenwire, Oct. 20, 2016).

In April, though, the D.C. Circuit paused litigation both over the rule and over the Clean Power Plan for 60 days. The Trump administration has ordered EPA to review both rules, along with a host of Obama administration climate change policies.

The court asked parties to weigh in on whether to suspend the litigation indefinitely or send it back to EPA, terminating the case. Environmentalists and state supporters of the rule had urged the D.C. Circuit to move ahead with the litigation, despite the Trump administration’s plans.

Today’s order represents the latest in a week of court setbacks for environmentalists in litigation involving the Obama climate change agenda.

Earlier in the week, the court granted a further 60-day delay in the litigation over the Clean Power Plan (E&E News PM, Aug. 8).

The D.C. Circuit also tossed out an Obama-era policy for phasing out potent heat-trapping chemicals known as hydrofluorocarbons (Greenwire, Aug. 8).

In a statement, the Environmental Defense Fund noted that the carbon standards for new power plants would remain in effect while the case is suspended.

“The carbon pollution standards for new, modified, and reconstructed power plants are already working to protect American families and communities from the dangerous pollution that causes climate change,” said Tom√°s Carbonell, the group’s director of regulatory policy and lead attorney. “Today’s decision allows those standards to remain in full force and effect.”