With a majority of states moving to comply with U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan, is the "just say no" strategy a thing of the past? On today's The Cutting Edge, Greenwire reporter Jean Chemnick explains how states that were previously committed to "saying no" are now shifting to a strategy of considering compliance options. Chemnick also discusses how the remaining noncompliance states may be swayed to craft state implementation plans.
Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to The Cutting Edge. With a majority of states moving to comply with EPA's Clean Power Plan, is the "just say no" strategy a thing of the past? Greenwire's Jean Chemnick joins me with the latest details, the latest action on the Clean Power Plan. Jean, what is the landscape looking like right now? How many states, which states are on that noncompliance list?
Jean Chemnick: Well, it's dwindling. It is tricky to say what the noncompliance list was to begin with, because there were many states where one or more branch of their government is very against this rule. But ultimately the governor's office and his Cabinet is responsible for submitting a state implementation plan for the rule, and only five governors have said previously that they will not submit that plan, and that's Kentucky, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana and Wisconsin. And of those five states the Cabinet member for two of them has sort of said recently that they are looking at options, whether or not that someday translates to a plan, and that's Oklahoma and Texas. So -- and who knows? Possibly similar processes are playing out in the other three, too. So as far as we know three states are perhaps not doing anything, but it's hard to tell.
Monica Trauzzi: You wrote a great piece this week that got a lot of attention and you had a great quote in there. "The frigging poster child of 'just say no.'" Which state is that?
Jean Chemnick: Well, someone described Oklahoma as the "frigging poster child of 'just say no'" for the reason that Mary Fallon, the governor, was the first to come out and say that she wasn't going to submit a plan. And after the rule was finalized this summer she did an executive action saying that her -- you know, that it wouldn't be possible to be submit a plan, but those can be rescinded. And at a conference last week her energy secretary told a group of regulators that they were looking at options, and more importantly also that they would not be FIP'd -- there wouldn't be a federal implementation plan for Oklahoma, which has to mean that there would be a compliant plan at some point.
Monica Trauzzi: Mitch McConnell, Peter Glaser -- these are the people who made "just say no" a common phrase as it relates to the Clean Power Plan. What are they saying about "just say no" now?
Jean Chemnick: Well, Glaser is involved in some of the litigation so he isn't talking, but McConnell became very personally involved with "just say no." He famously wrote a letter to all 50 governors saying, "Don't comply; this will put you in a bad position," last spring, and was using those phrases for months and months, and has -- even though his opposition to the rule continues to be equally strong, he has moved away from focusing on a message of "governors, don't comply" in recent months. And it's possible -- I mean, one person pointed out to me maybe that's partly because he's succeeded. This person attributed it to his work. But EPA did push back the timeline for submitting a plan, and that does away with the threat that states might commit themselves before litigation probably will have completed.
Monica Trauzzi: Right, and a total of 26 states are challenging the rule in court, and their first step was to request a stay. The D.C. Circuit won't decide on a stay until December 23rd, which is after the U.N. Paris meeting. So does this clear the path for the Obama administration as they head into Paris?
Jean Chemnick: I guess the briefs will be due by two days before Christmas, but the decision might not even be until January or February. But yes, there pretty much is no possibility that the rule will be stayed as State Department negotiators head to Paris, which happens in just over a month, which means that there's no possibility, at least from the courts, that the U.S. will be lacking its main offering to an international climate deal.
Monica Trauzzi: And there are some states that could be waiting on a stay decision to figure out just exactly what their next steps should look like. How could those states be affected by the fact that this is sort of a -- a bit of a later timeline on a stay?
Jean Chemnick: The final rule even did push back the timeline for states to submit plans. There's a little initial offering required next September, but pretty much every state could probably put that in. It doesn't obligate them going forward. They'll have an additional two years to submit a more detailed plan, and that is important. I mean, part of McConnell's argument used to be that if you submit a state plan it becomes federally enforceable and all the policies in it are federally enforceable. And that seems to disappear if you assume, which is pretty solid assumption, that litigation will have concluded by 2018.
Monica Trauzzi: All right, Jean, thank you -- very interesting, very interesting story this week. Thanks for coming on the show.
Jean Chemnick: Thank you.
Monica Trauzzi: More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We'll see you then.
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