China ‘laser-focused’ on legal challenge — former EPA chief

Source: Hannah Hess, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The legal challenge to U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan is “very definitely” causing concern among the international community that America may fall short of commitments it made during the Paris climate talks last year, a former Republican EPA administrator said today.

William Reilly, who led the agency under President George H.W. Bush and who now advises an international investment partnership, today told a crowd at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., that China in particular is “laser-focused” on the court battle.

“It will be very big and very distressing news if [the rule] is not sustained,” said Reilly, who has filed a legal brief in support of the plan that looks to reduce power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions (Greenwire, March 31).

The White House took steps in the wake of the Supreme Court’s February decision to stay the rule to spread the message that Obama’s legacy climate rule would not be the only way to meet U.S. commitments to the global climate deal. Principal deputy press secretary Eric Schultz talked about other policies, like the renewable energy tax credits that were extended late last year as part of a budget agreement with Congress.

Reilly said today that the Obama administration sent someone to China after the stay “to explain that this was ordinary business, not to worry, [and] we were still on the course to keeping the commitments made.”

Reilly also said he had a meeting with China’s climate negotiator in Beijing before the meeting in Paris.

“The first question he asked me was to what extent can we assume that the commitments made by President Obama will survive into the next administration?” he said.

Two weeks before oral arguments in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Reilly spoke as part of an event focused on the rule, public opinion of the program and the legal challenges (Greenwire, Sept. 12).

Reilly expressed confidence that even if the Clean Power Plan is struck down, “a lot” of its provisions are likely to withstand attack. Several elements of the rule were drafted in a way that would ensure their survival, he said.