North Carolina’s environment agency is objecting to a proposed federal rule that would limit greenhouse gas emissions from the state’s power plants.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently hearing public comments on the proposed rule, the Obama administration’s largest effort directed toward climate change.
The rule gives states until mid-2016 to submit plans for reducing power plants’ carbon emissions rate. It requires North Carolina power plants to average about 40 percent less carbon emissions for each unit of energy they produce, by 2030.
Governor Pat McCrory joined eight other Republican governors in a letter to the President, opposing the rule, arguing it would effectively ban coal and hurt the economy.
The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources has also objected, but for a different reason. Energy policy advisor Don van der Vaart believes the rule is an overreach and will fall to court challenges.
“We’d be opposing it because we would be concerned that so many of these building blocks [legal grounds for the rule] would be struck down that we’re ultimately wasting a lot of money,” says van der Vaart.
State environment officials want the EPA to delay the deadline for submitting a plan until some of those court challenges will finish. Van der Vaart says, if the state is not allowed to wait out the lawsuits, it may join in. He says the state has lost too much money over the past few years when courts have rolled back other EPA rules.
Luis Martinez, an Asheville-based attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, argues the rule will stand.
“Obviously anything that EPA does is challenged by industry. That’s become now the norm, and it’s expected,” Martinez says. “But on these issues, on climate change in particular, the EPA has a string of wins.”
And Martinez argues even if the courts demand some changes, states will end up with cleaner air, rather than a large bill.