From Madeleine Albright to candymaker, rule sees broad support

By Ellen M. Gilmer | 04/04/2016 07:45 AM EDT

A swarm of new Clean Power Plan backers arrived on the legal scene last week, with filings rolling in from big technology companies, government officials and a couple of oddballs.

A swarm of new Clean Power Plan backers arrived on the legal scene last week, with filings rolling in from big technology companies, government officials and a couple of oddballs.

Dominion Resources Inc. was perhaps the most unexpected party to side with U.S. EPA in the massive litigation over the agency’s plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector.

While utilities across the country have helped lead the fight against the climate rule, Dominion — which owns several coal- and natural-gas-fired power plants — says the plan’s focus on power from gas and renewables is consistent with industry trends.


"The Rule provides a flexible, accommodating compliance framework that means the Rule can be implemented by states and EPA in a way that is challenging but ultimately manageable for regulated power plants," the Virginia-based utility, which also operates nuclear plants, said in its "friend of the court" filing Friday.

Arguments against the rule’s market-based measures could result in costlier regulations down the road, the company added.

A handful of other utilities, including Southern California Edison Co. and Pacific Gas and Electric Corp., have intervened in the case on EPA’s side, but most in the power sector are seeking to block the rule.

Dominion’s move was part of a flurry of briefs filed Friday to meet the deadline for friends of the court supporting the rule at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Tech giants and a candymaker

Other business interests joining the defense of the Clean Power Plan ranged from the predictable — sustainable business associations — to the unusual — Ikea and the maker of Mars bars.

Tech giants Inc., Apple Inc., Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. wrote in a brief Friday that they were committed to supporting the Clean Power Plan as a tool to promote clean energy.

As some of the "most significant consumers of electricity," the companies noted in their brief, "Tech Amici are deeply committed to consuming power in an environmentally responsible way and doing their part to see that the nation’s electrical supply is produced in a more sustainable fashion."

Other companies shared that sentiment, touting their desire to promote sustainable growth and energy use.

"The scale of the sustainability challenges in the world require bold commitments and bold action," Ikea North America Services LLC Chief Financial Officer Rob Olson said in a statement. Ikea was joined by Mars Inc., Adobe Systems Inc., and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts Inc. in its filing.

Consumer advocates and grid experts also weighed in, seeking to dispel arguments that the Clean Power Plan would raise electricity rates and threaten power reliability.

"Contrary to petitioners’ and their amici’s predictions of exorbitant costs and ‘economic disaster,’ the EPA’s carefully calibrated plan promises to drive electricity costs down for consumers and ratepayers while accomplishing substantial cuts to greenhouse-gas emissions," the Citizens Utility Board, Consumers Union and Public Citizen argued in their brief, citing various EPA and independent projections.

Government and science

Local governments and former state energy officials also joined the fray Friday, focusing on everyday impacts of climate change and arguing that the Clean Power Plan offers ample flexibility for states to comply and cut emissions.

Their message was bolstered by climate scientists and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Twenty prominent climate researchers used their amicus brief to highlight evidence of ocean acidification, rising temperatures, worsening droughts and other research "necessary to understand the context behind the Clean Power Plan at issue in this case."

Other defenses of the climate rule came from members of Congress, Senate staffers who shepherded Clean Air Act amendments and prominent former government officials — including former EPA Administrators William Ruckelshaus and William Reilly, and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Albright was joined by former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former Deputy Secretary of State and Ambassador to Russia Bill Burns in an amicus brief that argued EPA’s rule is crucial to combating climate change not only as an environmental problem but as a threat to national security.

"In short, global warming makes the world more volatile and less safe — which provides another reason why concerted, persistent action by the United States is of paramount importance," they wrote.

Rounding out last week’s filings were the Service Employees International Union, religious groups, the Institute for Policy Integrity and national health organizations.

The Environmental Defense Fund, an intervenor in the case, praised the slew of briefs as a demonstration of "unstoppable momentum for climate action."

"These rigorous and compelling briefs are a vivid reminder that Americans are embracing the clean energy future and recognizing the importance of securing a safe climate for our health, economy, and generations to come," EDF President Fred Krupp said in a statement. "It makes me optimistic about the court battle ahead of us."

Opponents of the rule will respond to the various briefs by April 15, and oral arguments are set for June 2.