Last updated: July 18. 2013 2:32PM - 923 Views
Bill Ellis

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CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced Friday that West Virginia has joined 20 other states in a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asking the agency not to enter into settlement discussions with 10 states, the District of Columbia and New York City, as well as several environmental groups, that have threatened a lawsuit over the EPA’s alleged failure to timely regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

In their June 18 response, attorneys general from 21 states, including Attorney General Morrisey, urge the EPA’s Acting Administrator not to enter into any form of settlement negotiations in the matter or, alternatively, to give all states the opportunity to participate in the resolution of the threatened suit. Attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Virginia also signed the letter.

“The proposed regulations will directly impact coal-producing states such as West Virginia,” Morrisey explained. “We cannot sit idly by and let other states and the federal government dictate our economic future.”

In the April intent to sue letters, the 10 states and others claimed the EPA failed to perform its mandatory duties because it failed to: (1) finalize a performance standard for greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants within one year of introduction; and (2) issue greenhouse gas emission guidelines for existing power plants. These states claim that the EPA’s purported failures violate the Clean Air Act. The states offered to explore “any means of resolving this matter without the need for litigation.”

The June 18 letter says those claims by the states and other parties lacks merit. It asks the EPA to refrain from allowing such petitions to unduly influence the policymaking process via settlement negotiations.

“Air quality is of equal concern to all states,” the letter states. “Appropriate process should not be subjugated, and effective policymaking cannot be forced to fruition, by threatening lawsuits.”

“In the event EPA deems it necessary and appropriate to allow the petitioners to commandeer the policymaking process under the threat of litigation, we request notice and an opportunity to participate in the resolution of the notices.”

If the proposed new source performance standard were finalized in its current form, it would have a devastating impact on West Virginia and numerous other states, Morrisey said. Essentially, it would prohibit new power plants from using coal unless they implemented costly carbon capture and storage technology.

“The EPA cannot allow the threat of lawsuits to force its hand in releasing these rules or any other rules. Crafting policy of this magnitude should take place in the light of day, not in closed door settlement negotiations,” Morrisey said.

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