Five States Forging Ahead With Obama Power Plan, Court Hold or Not

At least five states will press ahead with efforts to curb emissions from power plants even after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on President Barack Obama’s key climate change program.

Colorado, New York, California, Virginia and Washington said they’ll move ahead irrespective of the decision by the nation’s highest court to temporarily block the Clean Power Plan on Tuesday.

The federal rule aimed at combating climate change encourages states to rely more on wind, solar and natural gas-fired power, and use less coal, to reach carbon emissions cuts of 32 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels. The decision to press ahead with compliance steps amid the legal uncertainty shows how some states see carbon regulations as inevitable.

“Most states see the handwriting on the wall that we need to take action no matter what,” Aliya Haq, a deputy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental lobby group, said in a phone call Wednesday. “They know they need to pursue a clean energy future one way or the other.”

Virginia, one of 18 states that is seeking to defend the plan from legal attacks, said the Supreme Court order wouldn’t change its mind.

“We will stay on course and continue to develop the elements for a Virginia plan to reduce carbon emissions and stimulate our clean energy economy,” Governor Terry McAuliffe said in a statement.

Own Risk

Those states that hold off could well end up doing so at their own risk, Sara Chieffo, vice president of government affairs for the League of Conservation Voters, another environmental advocacy group, said in a telephone interview.

“States have every incentive to move ahead with this planning process and to continue to move ahead with advancing clean energy, and we’re fully confident that will continue while this legal process stays out,” she said.

States expected to hold off from taking steps include some of the 26 that sued on the grounds that the agency overstepped its authority, William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, said by e-mail.

“A number of states will suspend activity, especially those whose governors have been so active in the litigation,” Becker said by phone. “There will be those states like California and Colorado that will continue to move forward, building upon the experiences they’ve gathered over the past two years to comply with the Clean Power Plan.”

States including Alabama, West Virginia, Missouri and Texas praised the court’s decision as a win. For his part, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said the state would be better off developing low-emission and clean sources of energy “on a more reasonable timeline.”

There’s nothing stopping states from moving ahead to comply, Robert McKinstry, Philadelphia-based partner at Ballard Spahr LLP, said in a phone call Wednesday.

“The states still have to assume that there’s going to be some sort of regulation and some requirement to reduce emissions,” he said.

–With assistance from Jennifer A. Dlouhy.

©2016 Bloomberg News

Lead image: Power plant. Credit: Shutterstock.

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