A group of 27 US Republican attorneys general and industry trade groups filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday, seeking to prevent the implementation of a rule mandating significant cuts in carbon emissions from existing coal-fired power plants and new natural gas plants. 

According to the lawsuit, the proposed regulation would require coal or natural gas-powered plants to either capture smokestack emissions or shut down. It would impose stricter emissions standards on these plants under the Clean Air Act.  

The petition said that despite being rebuked by the US Supreme Court in 2022’s West Virginia v. EPA, which warned against using a narrow regulatory provision to force coal-fired power plants to retire en masse, the regulation was still implemented.  

“The EPA continues to not fully understand the direction from the Supreme Court – unelected bureaucrats continue their pursuit to legislate rather than rely on elected members of Congress for guidance,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “This green new deal agenda the Biden administration continues to force onto the people is setting up the plants to fail and therefore shutter, altering the nation’s already stretched grid.” 

The Biden administration took a step forward in tackling climate change by implementing a new regulation. As of 25 April, a final rule has been issued that mandates all existing coal-fired plants that intend to operate in the long run, along with all new baseload gas-fired plants, to control 90% of their carbon pollution. 

Biden’s national climate advisor, Ali Zaidi, said in the statement: “This year, the US is projected to build more new electric generation capacity than we have in two decades – and 96% of that will be clean. America is now a magnet for private investment, with hundreds of billions of dollars committed and 270,000 new clean energy jobs created. This is how we win the future, by harnessing new technologies to grow our economy, deliver environmental justice and save the planet for future generations.” 

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However, the lawsuit states that Congress has not provided the EPA with clear statutory authorisation to revamp the electricity grids. As a result, the agency cannot bypass Congress to exercise extensive regulatory power that could significantly overhaul the country’s energy grids and require states to transition their energy portfolios away from fossil fuel-fired generation, it said. 

According to the government, the EPA’s final Clean Air Act standards for existing coal-fired and new natural gas-fired power plants limit the amount of carbon pollution covered sources can emit. These standards are based on “proven and cost-effective control technologies that can be applied directly to power plants”.  

The regulatory impact analysis shows that 1.38 billion tonnes of carbon pollution will be eliminated by 2047, equivalent to the annual emissions of 328 million petrol cars or almost the entire yearly emissions of the US electric power sector. The analysis also projects up to $370bn in net benefits for climate and public health over the next two decades.