Forum questions effects of EPA Clean Power Plan
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan would have long-term negative impacts on the nation’s coal industry if it survives a legal challenge, one expert on the issue said on Tuesday.
At a one-sided forum sponsored by several right-leaning groups, Denver attorney and former Colorado Public Utilities Commission chairman Ray Gifford told about 100 Western Slope residents and government officials the impact the plan would have on coal-fired power plants specifically, and the coal industry in general.
Under the plan, which is to become official in the next few weeks but doesn’t fully go into effect for a few years, states would be required to reduce ozone emissions from power plants by 32 percent of 2005 levels by 2030.
States would have to come up with their own plans for achieving that goal by the end of next year, but can request a two-year extension if they can show they are making “substantial progress” toward a viable plan, Gifford said.
While he and others questioned whether the EPA has the legal authority to implement such a plan — lawsuits have already been filed challenging it — Gifford also said the federal agency is playing loose and easy with the facts behind the idea.
“The state lawsuit is essentially going to say that the EPA has vastly exceeded its authority, which is true,” Gifford said. “It’s undertaken a rule of scope and scale that’s never been contemplated before essentially by taking over the nation’s electric grid and dictating the change by 2030, and the assumptions that it uses are arbitrary and capricious, which are the legal magic words. How that (lawsuit) goes is anybody’s guess.”
The EPA and other backers of the plan, such as the left-leaning Environmental Defense Fund, say the agency does have the legal right to do this under the Clean Air Act.
One section of that act directs the EPA to identify stationary sources “that significantly contribute to dangerous air pollution,” while another section specifically outlines impacts to the ozone, such as large amounts of carbon dioxide.
Still, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman announced in August that she would join the growing number of states challenging the rules, much as several states did over the EPA’s now failed rule that would have given it more control over the nation’s waterways under the Clean Water Act.
Those rules were declared invalid by the courts.
State legislatures already are drafting their own plans, even those that are challenging its legality, including Colorado.
Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, said that’s why the forum was convened — to discuss its potential impacts. The event was sponsored by Senate Republicans, Americans for Prosperity, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the Independence Institute.