It is well known in this first year of the Trump Administration that many existing rules – particularly those promulgated during the Obama Administration – are being weakened, delayed, or repealed. One example is the Clean Power Plan, meant to regulate emissions from coal-fired power plants. The Obama era rule is being litigated in court. USEPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has used this as justification to state that the agency would not object to any state delaying its implementation of the Clean Power Plan and not follow any part of the schedule stated in the promulgated Plan. A number of state attorneys general have issued a letter warning Pruitt that these actions are ill-advised and potentially illegal. This matter is heading to court. After all, Congress has not amended the rule, no court has not called the Plan unconstitutional, and the US Supreme Court continues to cite greenhouse gases as legitimate pollutants that the USEPA must regulate. A presidential executive order earlier this year for the government to not enforce the law apparently has no legal standing.
The Clean Power Plan would require reductions in CO2 emissions from 2005 levels by 32% by 2030. Ironically, the US is already about half way there, independent of the rule, mainly because of market forces encouraging many power plants to switch from coal to natural gas as its fuel; gas combustion results in much lower CO2 emissions than coal.
The US Court of Appeals last year upheld the objections of some parties to the Plan, and subsequently allowed the delay of some aspects of it. But that court substantiated that the Plan is still the rule of law and only some deadlines can be bypassed.
In addition to a number of states objecting to the delays in administering the Clean Power Plan, a number are also promulgating their own new rules and standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and from other sources in response to the Trump Administration announcement that it would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. They are using Paris goals for their own new rules. Many Fortune 500 companies are also creating and implementing their own plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, understanding the financial benefits from doing so. With the states and major corporations together achieving major greenhouse gas emission reductions, it may not matter what the courts rule about the validity of the Clean Power Plan, the US involvement in the Paris Agreement, and other climate change rules.
Please note that this article is not meant in any way as a legal briefing or discussion. Please do your own research in terms of the future of climate change or any environmental legislation. CCES can help your company reduce your “carbon footprint”, achieve long-lasting greenhouse gas emission reductions, and do so in ways to benefit you financially, from reduced utility bills to improved productivity to reduced maintenance costs to higher asset values. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.