Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Long Legal Battles Ahead Over Trump’s Climate Order

Obama's Clean Power Plan would limit greenhouse gas pollution from the power setor beginning in 2022. (Credit: Oran Viriyincy/Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Environmental groups and progressive states are vowing to battle President Trump in court over his push to repeal federal climate protections, and experts are warning that the battles ahead will be slow and protracted.

An executive order on energy regulations signed by Trump on Tuesday takes direct aim at President Obama’s landmark climate rule, the Clean Power Plan, which would limit greenhouse gas pollution from power plants beginning in 2022.

“It’s a more cautious and well thought-out executive order than the ones we’ve seen from Trump so far,” said Michael Wara, an energy and environmental expert at Stanford Law School.

Trump’s order doesn’t eliminate the power plant rules, instead directing the Environmental Protection Agency to review them and suspend or rescind or propose changes to any that “burden” energy production from coal and other fossil fuels.  It requires similar reviews of other energy industry rules.

“It doesn’t actually do anything,” Wara said.  “What it sets in place is a process to review the rules promulgated by the Obama administration.”

The main legal challenges anticipated in the months ahead relate to an existing lawsuit over the Clean Power Plan.

The administration is expected to abandon the previous administration’s defense of the rules, which were challenged by 24 states with the support of the coal industry and some utilities. The high-profile case is being considered by a federal appeals court.  The Supreme Court issued a rare stay on the rules a year ago while the lawsuit is heard.

The change in position by the Trump administration could leave attorneys for progressive states, green groups, and other organizations fighting for the right to defend the federal rules despite a federal government no longer wanting them.

“We’re anticipating that the Trump administration will now file some sort of motion with the court asking the court to not decide these cases,” said Joanne Spalding, an attorney with the nonprofit Sierra Club.  “So we plan to oppose that.”

Other legal challenges are anticipated as the EPA and other agencies start complying with the new executive order by moving to revoke and revise climate regulations.

“If the Trump Administration decides to dismantle these carbon pollution standards and then either chooses not to limit carbon pollution from power plants, or chooses to do it in a way that is ineffective and weak, then, yes, you can expect to see challenges,” Spalding said.

A coalition of 24 states, cities and counties issued a joint statement on Tuesday vowing a similar fight. The coalition is being led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

“We won’t hesitate to protect those we serve — including by aggressively opposing in court President Trump’s actions that ignore both the law and the critical importance of confronting the very real threat of climate change,” the statement said.

Many of the looming legal challenges will revolve around debates about how far the Clean Air Act, which was approved by Congress long before climate change was considered a pressing issue, requires the government to go in regulating heat-trapping pollution.

Read more at Long Legal Battles Ahead Over Trump’s Climate Order

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