CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey delivered remarks at the National Press Club on Thursday concerning upcoming oral arguments in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency.
Those arguments, scheduled for Feb. 28 before the U.S. Supreme Court, will revolve around the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s legal authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate existing power plants.
“This case will determine whether Congress, as opposed to an unaccountable federal agency, will drive decisions on how to address climate change,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “This ruling will also have a significant impact on West Virginia jobs and the price of electricity in the Mountain State.”
A coalition of 19 states, coal companies and others have joined West Virginia in challenging an overbroad interpretation of the EPA’s power to regulate greenhouse emissions from coal-fired plants.
The states’ challenge asks the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling that would give EPA virtually unlimited authority to regulate wide swaths of everyday life.
In particular, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals mistakenly concluded that a narrow provision of federal law grants EPA broad authority to unilaterally decarbonize virtually any sector of the economy, including factories and power plants.
Among other things, the coalition argues the EPA’s new power–including the power to reorder entire industries–presents such a substantially important question that an administrative agency such as EPA cannot decide it without a clear statement from Congress that it can.
The coalition also asserts Congress must speak in even plainer terms before an agency can be allowed to upset the balance of power between the federal government and the states. No federal law includes such a “clear statement” here. EPA has instead sought to sidestep Congress to exercise broad regulatory power that would radically transform the nation’s energy grid and force states to fundamentally shift their energy portfolios away from coal-fire generation.
The case marks the most consequential development in environmental law since Attorney General Morrisey won an historic and unprecedented stay of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan at the Supreme Court in February 2016.
Without the Supreme Court’s intervention, the coalition has argued the lower court’s ruling could set a devastating standard and lead to decisions of great economic consequence based upon unlawful EPA regulations, not the rule of law. And if upheld, the lower court’s decision would devastate coal mining, increase consumer’s energy costs, and eliminate countless jobs.
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