Environment

NC DEQ and Attorney General withdrawing from Clean Power Plan lawsuit

Duke Energy is retiring its coal-fired electricity plant in Asheville, switching it over to natural gas. Many of the states suing the EPA over the Clean Power Plan were already on track to meet their reductions goals. (Photo: Duke Energy)

For once, North Carolina wants to quit a lawsuit rather than file or join one.

Late yesterday afternoon NC Attorney General Josh Stein announced he has asked a federal district court to allow the state to withdraw from a lawsuit against the EPA over the Clean Power Plan.
Stein acted on behalf of DEQ Secretary Michael Regan.

Regan’s decision is to be expected, both philosophically and fiscally. His former employer, the Environmental Defense Fund, defended the Clean Power Plan, which empowered the EPA to regulate carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. However, states could devise their own methods of decreasing those emissions, based on goals set by the EPA. The CPP is key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and if not reversing, at least stalling, the disastrous effects of climate change.

Withdrawing from the lawsuit also makes financial sense. First, the CPP is still embroiled in the courts, and the legal bills add up. Secondly, the Trump administration has promised to dismantle the CPP. So to fight the plan in court could be redundant.

“We are working to assess our agency and its challenges so we can better position ourselves to meet our greatest priorities going forward,” Regan said in a prepared statement. “We feel that pursuing this potentially expensive legal challenge is not a good use of state resources, would not be in line with our agency’s mission to protect the environment, and would not serve the best interest of taxpayers.”

In 2015, former DEQ Secretary Donald van der Vaart had joined more than two dozen states in suing the EPA. They alleged that the agency’s actions were unconstitutional because it doesn’t have the authority to regulate carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act. Then-Attorney General Roy Cooper declined to pursue the suit, leaving legal representation to DEQ.

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