23 States File Petition Challenging EPA's New Coal Regulations

A coalition of 23 states, led by North Dakota, West Virginia, and South Dakota, filed a petition challenging the EPA's new pollution standards for coal-fired power plants. The states argue the EPA overstepped its authority and the rules could put over 12,000 jobs at risk.

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23 States File Petition Challenging EPA's New Coal Regulations

23 States File Petition Challenging EPA's New Coal Regulations

On May 9, 2024, a coalition of 23 states, led by North Dakota, West Virginia, and South Dakota, filed a petition in the U.S. District Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. challenging the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) new pollution standards that impact the coal industry. The final proposed rules, which were made public on April 25, 2024, set stricter emissions standards and requirements for coal-fired power plants.

Why this matters: The outcome of this legal battle will have significant implications for the energy industry, the economy, and environmental regulations in the United States. A ruling in favor of the EPA could pave the way for more stringent regulations on other industries, while a ruling in favor of the states could limit the agency's authority to implement environmental protections.

The new EPA regulations include lower mercury emissions standards, reduced levels of pollutants that can be discharged through wastewater, stricter standards for handling coal ash, and limits on carbon emissions. North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley strongly criticized the rules, stating, "This rule intentionally sets impossible standards to destroy the coal industry." Wrigley added, "Federal agencies cannot decide on a whim to destroy entire industries."

EPA Administrator Michael Regan defended the new standards, asserting that the agency is "cutting pollution while ensuring that power companies can make smart investments and continue to deliver reliable electricity for all Americans." However, officials in North Dakota argue that the mercury standard provides no measurable health benefits and amounts to a "death sentence for coal." The Lignite Energy Council estimates that the North Dakota coal industry contributes $5.75 billion to the state economy and over $100 million in state and local taxes. Jason Bohrer, President and CEO of the Lignite Energy Council, warned, "Electricity demand is surging, and the EPA's agenda will severely impact our ability to rely on electricity 24/7."

The petition argues that the EPA overstepped its authority and disregarded the Supreme Court's guidance in West Virginia v. EPA, which cautioned the agency about using narrow regulatory provisions to force coal-fired power plants out of operation. Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares stated, "By overstepping its bounds, the EPA is not only disregarding the Supreme Court's clear guidance but is also threatening the stability of our nation's energy supply and infringing upon the sovereign rights of states to manage their energy resources."

The 23 states involved in the petition include Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. These states argue that the EPA cannot legally assert extensive regulatory control over the electricity grids without explicit statutory authorization from Congress.

The new EPA rules could put over 12,000 jobs in the lignite industry at risk, according to theLignite Energy Council. As the legal battle unfolds, the future of coal-fired power plants and the EPA's regulatory authority hangs in the balance. The outcome of this multistate petition will have significant implications for the energy industry, the economy, and environmental regulations in the United States.