President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the international climate change agreement reached in Paris as a major achievement that could help turn the tide on global warming.
But Republicans, who are heavily funded by fossil fuel interests that produce the pollutants causing climate change, tried to deflate the celebration, vowing to overturn the agreement signed by almost 200 nations if the party wins the White House in 2016.
Obama said the climate agreement “can be a turning point for the world” and credited his administration for playing a key role. He and Kerry predicted the agreement would prompt widespread spending on clean energy and help stem carbon pollution.
“We’ve shown that the world has both the will and the ability to take on this challenge,” Obama said from the White House. He said the climate agreement “offers the best chance we have to save the one planet we have.”
But the immediate reaction of leading Republicans was a reminder of the conflict that lies ahead.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Obama is “making promises he can’t keep” and should remember the agreement “is subject to being shredded in 13 months,” when the next president takes the oath of office.
Even as Obama was working to hammer out a global climate agreement in Paris, Republican climate-change deniers in Congress were working to block his plan to force cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants.
The House passed two resolutions Dec. 8 against the power-plant rules. A measure blocking an Environmental Protection Agency rule for existing power plants was approved 242–180, while a measure blocking a rule on future power plants was approved 235–188.
The votes came after the Senate approved identical motions in November under a little-used law that allows Congress to block executive actions it considers onerous.
The measures, as WiG went to press, were at the White House, where they faced almost-certain vetoes.
Just four Democrats sided with Republicans to support the measures, which fell far short of the numbers needed to override a veto in both the House and Senate.
U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., said GOP lawmakers were forcing a vote on the climate rule “to send a message … there’s serious disagreement with the policies of this president.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the president’s pro-environment policies will kill jobs, increase electricity costs and decrease the reliability of the U.S. energy supply.
Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., said he wished Obama took the threat posed by “radical jihadists” as seriously as he takes the “pseudoscientific threat” posed by climate change.
Republicans at the state level also are challenging the power plan, which requires states to cut carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030, based on emissions in 2005. Each state has a customized target and is responsible for drawing up an effective plan to meet its goal.
The EPA says it has authority to enact the plan under the Clean Air Act. But 25 mostly Republican states, led by Texas and West Virginia, are contesting the plan in court, calling it an unlawful power grab that will kill jobs and drive up electricity costs. Wisconsin, which has perhaps the nation’s strongest rules discouraging “green” energy, is part of the suit.
Utilities, the National Mining Association and the nation’s largest privately owned coal company also are suing the EPA over the new rules.
Koch Industries, a major polluter that political insiders say pulls the strings of the Wisconsin GOP, is one of the world’s largest funders of climate-change propaganda.
The Associated Press was a source for this analysis.
States and industry groups dependent on fossil fuels filed court challenges Friday to President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Opponents of the plan filed a flurry of lawsuits at the U.S. Court of Appeals as the Environmental Protection Agency published its final version of the new regulations.
The challenges from all but two of the 25 states were filed by Republicans. They deride the plan as an “unlawful power grab by Washington bureaucrats” that will kill coal mining jobs and drive up electricity costs.
“The Clean Power Plan is one of the most far-reaching energy regulations in this nation’s history,” said West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, among those leading the challenges. “I have a responsibility to protect the lives of millions of working families, the elderly and the poor, from such illegal and unconscionable federal government actions.”
The Obama administration and environmental groups counter that the rules are needed to cut carbon emissions while curbing the worst impacts of climate change and sea-level rise. They also say the plan will spur new clean-energy jobs.
The new rules require states to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Each state has a customized target and is responsible for drawing up an effective plan to meet its goal.
“We are confident we will again prevail against these challenges and will be able to work with states to successfully implement these first-ever national standards to limit carbon pollution, the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
The EPA says it has authority to enact the plan under the Clean Air Act. At issue are dueling provisions added to the law by the House and Senate in 1990. The EPA’s interpretation relies on the Senate language, but opponents argue that the House version should win out.
EPA already regulates other power-plant pollutants under a different section of the Clean Air Act, and the opponents claim the law prohibits “double regulation.”
Under the act, certain challenges to agency rules skip the federal district court and go directly to the appeals court in Washington, D.C.
Morrisey also filed a stay barring the plan from taking effect while the court challenges proceed, a question that will likely be up to the Supreme Court.
“We expect polluters and their allies to throw everything they’ve got at the Clean Power Plan, and we expect them to fail,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, among those defending the law. “The Clean Power Plan is based on a law passed by Congress, upheld by the Supreme Court, and demanded by the American people.”
The states challenging the plan in court are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming and Wisconsin.
Also filing suit against the EPA was Murray Energy Corp., the nation’s largest privately owned coal company.
Members of Congress from coal-mining states joined in, saying they will introduce new legislation aimed at blocking the EPA from enforcing the plan.
On the other side, 15 states and the District of Columbia say they are backing the Obama administration and will begin working to comply with the new rules.
There is some political variation in the positions taken within the states. In North Carolina, for example, the environmental agency controlled by the Republican governor joined the opposition without the participation of the state’s Democratic attorney general.
Governors in Colorado and Michigan said they will work to comply with the new EPA rules, even as attorneys general from their states joined the lawsuit.
“Clean air and protecting public health should be everyone’s top priority,” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said Friday. “We believe that Colorado can achieve the clean air goals set by the EPA, at little or no increased cost to our residents.”