Nine states have joined a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that was initiated by the Murray Energy Corporation, the largest independent coal company in the U.S. The suit aims to strike down the EPA's new rules to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants, stating that the agency does not have the authority to enforce them.
Murray Energy Corp. is headed by Robert Murray, a climate change denier who has previously sued the EPA over what he calls a "war on coal" that is costing the industry in job losses.
Alaska, Wyoming, Alabama, Ohio, North Carolina, Nebraska, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma have all joined the lawsuit that describes the proposed regulations, which seek to cut carbon emissions from stationary sources by 30 percent from the 2005 baseline by 2030, as "nothing short of extraordinary."
According to the suit, the EPA issued rules under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, which prohibits regulation of coal companies that are already following standards set by other sections of the bill. Enforcing the new rules would "impose impermissible double regulation" on those power plants, the suit claims.
However, the bill also gives the agency "expansive authority" to ensure that states comply with what the EPA determines is the "best system of emission reduction." Broad language and limited precedents have made it difficult to determine how far the EPA can go in regulating carbon emissions and greenhouse gases, but recent rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court show that the agency's regulations have all been legally sound.
In 2007, the court ruled that the government was legally allowed to curb "air pollutants" like carbon dioxide. Earlier this year, it made a similar decision on greenhouse gases, although it said that the agency overextended its authority at times.
The EPA plans to instate its new rules in 2015. Emission reduction requirements would vary state by state. The target to cut 30 percent would still be above pollution levels of 1990.