Following last week's surprise move by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to postpone Clean Power Plan arguments to September, and before the full panel, parties involved in the case have spent the week assessing shifts in their strategies for arguments. During today's OnPoint, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) discusses how he plans to proceed during this fall's arguments. He also explains why he believes the U.S. coal industry could see a comeback if the Clean Power Plan is defeated in court, despite the market trending away from coal.
Monica Trauzzi: Attorney General Morrisey, thank you for your time.
Patrick Morrisey: Hey, it's great to be with you.
Monica Trauzzi: So following last week's surprising decision from the D.C. Circuit to move Clean Power Plan oral arguments to September before the full panel. How are you changing your strategy heading into those arguments? Any changes to what you're actually going to say?
Patrick Morrisey: Well, I think, first of all, we're optimistic because, as a result of the decision to hold this before the entire panel, I think that it sends a message that this really is an unprecedented action. We saw that the Supreme Court issued the unprecedented stay and that having the argument before the entire panel, I think means that everyone is paying close attention to it. We're still going to make the same legal arguments that we've been making and that ultimately prove successful before the U.S. Supreme Court. So I don't know that there's a fundamental shift in terms of strategy, but we are looking forward to getting into court in September.
Monica Trauzzi: But now it'll be before five Democrats, three of whom are Obama appointees. How will you look to target those judges and get them on your side?
Patrick Morrisey: Well, we think that whoever hears this, we're hopeful will be responsive to our legal arguments that what's happening here is actually unprecedented, literally in our nation's history, and the EPA is going so far outside of its authority that, regardless of the political party that you may have come from, that people should still take our position.
Monica Trauzzi: So you called this week for EPA to stop federal spending on the power plan. There are a large number of states who are seeking technical assistance from the agency in planning for their compliance, which they're still doing despite the stay. Why shouldn't the agency be providing that assistance to the states? The states are moving on this path voluntarily.
Patrick Morrisey: So stay means stay. It means stop work. It doesn't mean continue and try to advance a regulation that ultimately will be deemed unlawful in the courts. So we don't think it's an efficient use of taxpayer resources. I would also add that whenever the court rules, if we don't succeed, they're going to have to reset all the timelines anyway, so there's really no need to take action right now. I think this is just a backdoor way to try to continue to advance the Clean Power Plan in contravention of the stay.
Monica Trauzzi: But then will those states who have acted now be ahead of the game, ahead of states who have halted action?
Patrick Morrisey: Well, I think, look, every state has to make their own decision, but I would say this. When the Supreme Court issued the stay, that had clear meaning, and that just doesn't mean that some of the states should stop working or that EPA should help some states at the expense of others. It's really directed at the EPA. They should stop work, they should put their pencils down.
Monica Trauzzi: A recent report by NERC shows the country's power generation mix is shifting more towards renewables, even without the Clean Power Plan in place, and in April, of course, as you know, Peabody Energy filed for bankruptcy. The market is driving away from coal and towards renewables very naturally, in a clear way. Does the Clean Power Plan mesh then with what the market dynamics are calling for?
Patrick Morrisey: You know, I think there's always -- there are always a number of factors as to why a particular state uses a particular form of energy. What we saw, though, with the CPP is that they started to really drive a lot of the changes in the marketplace. Yes, the marketplace was moving in a particular direction, but the regulatory directives that were coming down from the Obama administration really hastened a lot of the change, so I'm hopeful that as a result of obtaining a stay and ultimately defeating the power plan in court, that coal might have a little bit of a comeback. And I'm not predicting that it's going to return back to its previous lofty heights, but that there's still an opportunity, an important role for coal in our energy system.
Monica Trauzzi: In terms of protecting coal jobs in West Virginia, though, what would a court overturning the power plan achieve if utilities are already shifting away from coal? I mean, what's the substantive element there?
Patrick Morrisey: Well, we're very hopeful that if we do prevail and we win at the Supreme Court, that we can send a message that there still is an important role for coal in our nation's energy future. And once again, may not be at the same level as we saw in the past, even if we could reverse some of the regulatory damage that has occurred over the last few years, that could mean many thousands of jobs to hardworking West Virginians and their families.
Monica Trauzzi: What are your thoughts on the plan, the proposal that Hillary Clinton has, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has for protecting workers in West Virginia, for example, in these coal-heavy regions that are losing jobs?
Patrick Morrisey: Well, I think most people in West Virginia want to make sure that they still have access to a job. They're not looking for a handout, and while I think that when you hear about moneys coming to the state to address some of the damage, some people pay attention to that. I certainly will, but at the end of the day, jobs are being lost by the thousands in West Virginia, and people are looking to, if possible, get back to mining coal or, in the future, transition to some other good economic opportunities. I think that Hillary Clinton's promises fall flat on the citizens of West Virginia because I think they know that her election means fewer coal jobs in our state.
Monica Trauzzi: The Clean Power Plan, though, will create tens of thousands of new jobs, correct?
Patrick Morrisey: Well, I would say that we've been at the receiving end from a bad perspective. West Virginia has lost many thousands of jobs, and while there are many factors that can be attributed to that job loss, one clearly has been the regulations that have been coming in and just beating West Virginia up. So we haven't seen the upside of the Clean Power Plan. We've seen just about all downside.
Monica Trauzzi: All right, we'll end it right there. Thank you so much for your time.
Patrick Morrisey: Thank you very much.
Monica Trauzzi: Thank you.
Patrick Morrisey: Thanks.
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