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Attorney General Josh Stein sues EPA over Trump administration rollbacks of clean air rule

Attorney General Josh Stein

North Carolina is among 29 states that announced today they are suing the EPA over its repeal of the Clean Power Plan, which limited emissions from coal-burning power plants.

“The Clean Power Plan is essential to addressing the climate change crisis and beneficial for our economy and health,” said Attorney General Josh Stein in a prepared statement. “The Trump administration’s replacement rule does nothing to address this crisis or protect us, and it violates the Clean Air Act in the process. The Dirty Power rule is exactly the wrong policy at exactly the wrong time. I’m committed to using my authority to uphold the law and protect our environment.”

The Obama administration developed the Clean Power Plan, with a goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions 32 percent by 2030, relative to 2005 levels. Coal-fired power plants are a major source of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. These plants also emit other pollutants that can worsen or cause respiratory illnesses, particularly in children.

More than two dozen states, including North Carolina under then-Gov. Pat McCrory, opposed Obama’s plan, and in 2015 sued to stop it, arguing the EPA had overstepped its authority. However, Roy Cooper, who was attorney general at the time, declined to pursue the lawsuit.

In 2016, the Supreme Court issued a stay, and the Clean Power Plan was never implemented. Stein withdrew North Carolina from the litigation in 2017, after Cooper was elected governor.

A year ago, President Trump’s EPA unveiled a its Affordable Clean Energy rule, which favored the coal industry, to replace the Clean Power Plan. By the EPA’s own estimates, the rule would contribute to a projected overall pollution decrease of 35 percent – far short of the 74 percent target set out in the Clean Power Plan, Stein said.

In June, the EPA formally eliminated the plan.

Stein and the coalition of 29 states suing the Trump administration argue that Affordable Clean Energy rule disregards requirements of the Clean Air Act. The CAA requires that limits on air pollutants, such as greenhouse gases, must be based on the emissions reductions achievable through the “best system of emission reduction.”

 

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