President Barack Obama has done a valiant job of promoting clean energy and climate action despite facing a Congress run by climate deniers. The hallmark of this effort is the Clean Power Plan, which seeks to reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants, one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases in the country.
Unfortunately, not everyone is on board. Coal companies, which pollute our environment and destroy our mountains without paying the true costs of their impact on our planet, want to continue polluting for free. And they're pushing 24 states to sue the Environmental Protection Agency and stop President Obama's plan.
“Time and again, we’ve seen big polluters and their allies attack the lifesaving protections that let our loved ones breathe easier and keep our clean energy economy thriving, and this challenge to the Clean Power Plan is no different,” said Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, in a statement.
Coal, as we reported earlier this year, is a slowly dying, antiquated industry in America. Coal company stocks are down between 50 and 85 percent in the last year. This is not a power grab, but a last grasp of an industry that prefers to live in the past and not the future.
The states that are suing the EPA are those heavily dependent on coal (and, thus, their politicians dependent on coal-industry donations) or those who have drank the right-wing, anti-climate Kool Aid. They're not trying to find alternatives to regulations, such as a carbon tax, a cap-and-trade system, or other market solutions that would limit CO2 emissions but have been held up or killed in Congress. They are merely trying to stop progress and subject us to the worst of climate change in the years to come.
Thankfully, President Obama and the EPA have a lot of allies. Fifteen states are taking the opposite position, saying the EPA's moves are not only legal, but also necessary. Moreover, environmental organizations including the Sierra Club and Earthjustice are countering the reactionaries move.
“The Clean Power Plan follows the tradition of federal-state partnerships that courts have upheld time and again against constitutional challenge, “ said Howard Fox, counsel at Earthjustice, in a statement. “Constitutional arguments against the plan are last-ditch attempts to block the transition to clean energy that is already underway. Those who make such claims are on the wrong side of the law and the wrong side of history.”
When President Obama released the Clean Power Plan this past September, only one coal company spoke in favor it: Duke Energy, which, unlike its peers, has diversified into alternative energies,
Most environmental lawyers expect the Clean Power Plan to stand, but the problem is that a lengthy lawsuit could delay its implementation. We're already far behind on tackling climate change. Moreover, this could limit the leadership role that many hope that President Obama will take at the Paris climate talks coming up in a just six weeks.
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