Clean Power Plan

ClimateWire's Harball discusses challenges facing states on litigation, compliance

With many state governors publicly disagreeing with their attorneys general on how to approach Clean Power Plan litigation, how will these debates impact the shape compliance mechanisms take? On today's The Cutting Edge, ClimateWire reporter Elizabeth Harball discusses the challenges facing state leaders as they determine next steps on the rule. She also previews E&E's newest Power Plan Hub feature.


Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to The Cutting Edge. Twenty-seven to 18, the number of states legally challenging EPA's Clean Power Plan compared to those supporting the agency. ClimateWire's Elizabeth Harball is here to discuss what those numbers mean and how they'll impact compliance. Elizabeth, describe the level of disagreement that we're seeing in states on whether to legally challenge the rule and/or comply with it.

Elizabeth Harball: Well, as far as legally challenging the rule, in Republican-led energy-heavy states, there's not much disagreement. In more liberal states like New York and California, they're already making emissions reductions, very little disagreement as to whether to support EPA. There's a couple interesting states with significant conservative-liberal divides where the picture gets a little fuzzier, and on compliance, it gets even more interesting because when we talk about compliance, we don't necessarily mean that these states are building wind farms. We're talking about the development of state plans, very standard procedural step, but it was politicized when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell started the "Just Say No" movement. And so now the question on whether or not states will submit state plans and what will be in those plans has been complicated, and there's a lot of behind-the-scenes discussions and debates happening about that.

Monica Trauzzi: And are there particular states that stand out to you where we're seeing the biggest debates happening?

Elizabeth Harball: Well, you know, above board you have Colorado, where Gov. John Hickenlooper disagrees with the Attorney General Cynthia Coffman's decision to challenge the rule. He's seeking a review of that action. In Florida, it's very interesting. The Republican-led state is, of course, challenging the rule, but I talked to the mayor of South Miami, who's very upset about this decision because they are actively dealing with the impacts of sea-level rise right now. So they signed on to the motion to intervene to support EPA. In Iowa, on the other side of the equation, you have an attorney general who is supporting EPA. He acknowledged in a press call this week that his action may not be supported by his governor.

Monica Trauzzi: And we're hearing that a majority of states are considering the trading option. How is that influencing the approach that state regulators are taking on creating and crafting compliance mechanisms?

Elizabeth Harball: It's having a big impact. For example, the Southwest Power Pool, which is a grid operator that works in many of these Midwestern states opposing the rule, recently came out with an analysis that said that some sort of multistate approach, probably would include trading, is going to be the cheapest way to comply. And it's sort of complicated by the fact that mass-based states, that is states that will trade in tons of carbon, versus rate-based states, states that will trade in tons of carbon per megawatt-hour, they can't trade with each other. So I've heard it referred to as a prisoner's dilemma, whereas you have these states that are waiting to see what other states will do because, depending on how many states participate in one system or how that system works, will really make a big impact on how much compliance will cost for those states. One more wrinkle is that the phrase carbon trading is politicized, and so it will be very interesting to see how these conservative states who are submitting plans approach discussing carbon trading in their plans to be at least initially submitted next September.

Monica Trauzzi: How will presidential politics have an impact on the discussions?

Elizabeth Harball: This is really interesting. When I've been calling around to state agencies to ask them how they're thinking about compliance, I have noticed in states with Republican governors who have or have had presidential aspirations if they are discussing options, it's happening very, very secretly. Gov. Christie obviously opposes the rule. He is challenging it in court. When I called their state environment agency, they have declined to comment. That is the least I have gotten out of any state. Gov. Jindal's office said that they will allow the next governor to decide on this. Their election, of course, is this month. Gubernatorial politics is also going to play a role. Kentucky just had an election this week. They elected a Republican governor. He -- we don't know what he's going to do. We know he's against the Clean Power Plan, but whether or not he will submit a state plan, we don't know.

Monica Trauzzi: So to help navigate sort of the nuances of state compliance versus litigation, E&E will be debuting a new map as part of its Power Plan Hub next week. What's unique about what this new map will demonstrate?

Elizabeth Harball: Well, the map itself will show which states are suing, which states are supporting and which states are sitting on the sidelines. I don't think that will have too many surprises for our readers, but along with a map, we will be having a chart showing where suing states are as far as compliance goes. So we're going to have states like no-comment New Jersey and we're going to have states like maybe Texas and North Carolina, who are talking about maybe submitting an inside-the-fence-line plan that is -- they would only require emissions reductions at the source. They know that that would virtually guarantee a federal plan, so it will be very interesting to see if that will actually happen come September.

Monica Trauzzi: Yeah, so there's so much uncertainty right now. Is there a list, a definitive list of noncompliance states?

Elizabeth Harball: That question has become so much more complicated in the past couple weeks. We have states like Oklahoma, Indiana, Louisiana, as I said, where they are no longer comfortable saying they're just saying no to the Clean Power Plan. Something I'm hearing much more often, I spoke with the head of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Bryan Shaw, and his line was they're looking at all the options. And that's a line I'm hearing much, much more.

Monica Trauzzi: All right. Great reporting, as always. Thank you for coming on the show. And we'll look for those new additions to the hub next week. Thank you.

Elizabeth Harball: Thanks for having me.

Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We'll see you then.

[End of Audio]



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