ND Expert: New carbon emission rule targets existing plants, will result in lawsuits

Author: Shannon Chapla

Bruce Huber Bruce Huber

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday (June 2) released its Clean Power Plan, a long-awaited proposal that seeks to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants by 30 percent by 2030.

“These power plants account for about one-third of all such emissions within the U.S., and more importantly, they have historically escaped the brunt of regulation by the EPA, which generally focuses instead on newly constructed plants,” according to Bruce Huber, associate professor of law at the University of Notre Dame.

“Recognizing the magnitude of the issue, the EPA has granted to the states an unprecedented degree of flexibility in complying with the new regulations,” said Huber, who specializes in environmental, natural resources and energy law. “Rather than impose restrictions directly on power plants, the EPA provided the states with a host of options: States may expand their investments in energy efficiency, improve the efficiency of existing power plants or increase their usage of clean energy, such as solar and wind. Furthermore, by using 2005 as the baseline year for measuring the required emissions reductions, the EPA essentially gave credit to all those states that have already reduced carbon emissions substantially since that date.”

However, Huber said there is a very long road ahead with expected lawsuits.

“The EPA will take comments on the Clean Power Plan for a full 120 days, evaluate and respond to those comments, and then issue its final rule next year. States will then have one to three years to develop their plans for compliance and have the authority to stagger the implementation of those plans until 2030. Lawsuits challenging the legal validity of the plan are a virtual certainty.”

Contact: Bruce Huber, 574-631-2538, bhuber@nd.edu