President Obama’s controversial move to limit carbon emissions from power plants sparked a backlash on Capitol Hill and across the country within hours of its release Monday, with lawsuits challenging the rules already filed and Republicans vowing to block the plan by any means necessary.
A coalition of 15 states — including Democrat-led Kentucky — say they’ll sue the Environmental Protection Agency over the regulations, known as the Clean Power Plan and intended to cut carbon emissions from power plants by at least 32 percent by 2030.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a Republican, said Monday he’s already filed a legal challenge in federal court. Lawsuits from energy companies, manufacturing industry leaders and other groups are likely.
At the same time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and key Republicans in Congress have vowed to use every tool at their disposal to block the carbon regulations, though it’s unclear whether any action they take could withstand a presidential veto. Several Republican governors also have said their states will ignore the rules entirely.
In the face of strong pushback, Mr. Obama on Monday took direct aim at critics, painting them as “lazy” and uninterested in doing what’s necessary to preserve the planet. He said the carbon regulations — which force states to devise their own emissions reduction schemes and begin implementing them by 2022 at the latest — represent true American leadership on the issue of climate change.
Opponents, the president added, often warn of the negative economic consequences of environmental action and always are proven wrong.
SEE ALSO: Obama’s carbon rules will ‘irreparably injure’ coal industry, miners say
“We’ve heard these same stale arguments before. Every time America has made progress, it’s been despite these kinds of claims. Whenever America has set clear rules and smarter standards for the air your children breathe, we get the same scary stories about killing jobs and businesses and freedom,” he said, adding that critics said the same thing about the Clean Air Act and other instances of environmental progress and were wrong each time.
“We can figure this stuff out as long as we’re not lazy about it,” the president said.
But data show there are likely to be very real consequences.
The federal Energy Information Administration has said electricity prices could rise by as much as 7 percent as a result of the plan.
The EPA has admitted the plan will cost more than $8 billion to implement, though it argues the nation ultimately will see at least $34 billion in public health benefits.
Coal-fired power plants already are being taken off-line to comply with the new emissions targets, and the National Mining Association on Monday said the regulations will “irreparably injure” the already beleaguered coal industry.
SEE ALSO: West Virginia attorney general to sue Obama admin over carbon rules
Critics also believe the rules are, at their core, illegal and violate the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act. Their central argument is that the EPA already regulates harmful pollutants from power plants using the same section of the Clean Air Act it is invoking with the carbon rules.
“The administration doesn’t have the legal authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions from these sources because these sources are already being regulated and the act prohibits this sort of double regulation,” Mr. Pruitt said in a statement. “The most important detail left out today, however, is the fact the Clean Power Plan threatens the reliability and affordability of power for consumers and business across this country. Oklahoma is suing the EPA over the Clean Power Plan because we are asking the federal government to comply with the Clean Air Act, not because we need more time and flexibility to implement this unlawful plan.”
Oklahoma, West Virginia and 13 other states already challenged the Clean Power Plan in federal court, but the case was tossed in June. The court said the plaintiffs couldn’t challenge the proposal until it was finalized, meaning Monday’s official release opens the door to the first legal challenge to the substance of the carbon regulations.
Beyond the courtroom, GOP leaders on Capitol Hill believe the rules will decimate a structurally weak economy.
Sen. James Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said Monday he’ll work with fellow Republicans to craft “resolutions of disapproval” on the proposal.
In the House, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, said the GOP will “consider every option possible” to halt the rules.
Mr. McConnell also vowed to try to stop the regulations, which he says will cripple coal-producing areas such as his home state of Kentucky.
“The administration is now trying to impose these deeply regressive regulations — regulations that may be illegal, that won’t meaningfully impact the global environment, and that are likely to harm middle- and lower-class Americans most — by executive fiat,” he said in a statement. “It represents a triumph of blind ideology over sound policy and honest compassion. And in Kentucky, these regulations would likely mean fewer jobs, shuttered power plants and higher electricity costs for families and businesses. I will not sit by while the White House takes aims at the lifeblood of our state’s economy. I’m going to keep doing everything I can to fight them.”