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Clean Power Plan: Legal Background and Pending Litigation in West Virginia v. EPA

Clean Power Plan: Legal Background and Pending Litigation in West Virginia v. EPA

Full Title: Clean Power Plan: Legal Background and Pending Litigation in West Virginia v. EPA
Author(s): Linda Tsang & Alexandra M. Wyatt
Publisher(s): Congressional Research Service
Publication Date: January 1, 2017
Full Text: Download Resource
Description (excerpt):

On October 23, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its final Clean Power Plan rule (Rule) to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), specifically carbon dioxide (CO2), from existing fossil fuel-fired power plants. The aim of the Rule, according to EPA, is to help protect human health and the environment from the impacts of climate change. The Clean Power Plan would require states to submit plans to achieve state-specific CO2 goals reflecting emission performance rates or emission levels for predominantly coal- and gas-fired power plants, with a series of interim goals culminating in final goals by 2030.

The Clean Power Plan has been one of the more singularly controversial environmental regulations ever promulgated by EPA, and the controversy is reflected in the enormous multiparty litigation over the Rule ongoing in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit). Numerous petitions challenging the Clean Power Plan have been consolidated into one case, West Virginia v. EPA. While the litigation is still ongoing at the circuit court level, an unusual mid-litigation application to the Supreme Court resulted in a stay of the Rule, meaning that the Rule does not have legal effect at least for the duration of the litigation. On September 27, 2016, the en banc (full court) D.C. Circuit heard oral argument for the case.

This report provides legal background on the Rule, its Clean Air Act (CAA) framework under Section 111, and climate-related lawsuits that have preceded the present litigation over the Clean Power Plan. It then gives an overview of the participants in the current litigation, including two groups of Members of Congress, who have offered briefs in support of both sides. This report highlights the major events in the litigation as of the date of publication, including the Supreme Court stay and oral argument, and the likely timetable of events in the near term.

All statements and/or propositions in discussion prompts are meant exclusively to stimulate discussion and do not represent the views of, its Partners, Topic Directors or Experts, nor of any individual or organization. Comments by and opinions of Expert participants are their own.

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