U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy provided a brief updateon the status of the Clean Power Plan on March 22 during a day-long trip toCapitol Hill to testify on the agency's budget before two U.S. House ofRepresentatives Appropriations Committee subcommittees. The fiscal year 2017budget currently provides the agency with $8.27 billion in discretionaryfunding, a modest increase of $127 million over the previous year's budget.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., urgedgovernors to take advantage of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision toblock federal carbon emissions regulations on power plants. In a March 21letter, sent through the National Governors Association, McConnell called theU.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan a "massive regulatory plan" and said thatit will not have a significant impact on global emissions but instead will "punishstates' most vulnerable citizens and ship middle-class jobs overseas."
When reviewing broader legal challenges to the U.S. EPA'sClean Power Plan, a federal appeals court will not consider whether the U.S.EPA and several environmental groups engaged in alleged illegal ex partecommunications. Conservative legal advocacy group Energy and Environment LegalInstitute had asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of ColumbiaCircuit for permission to file a separate brief addressing possibleinappropriate communication between the EPA and environment groups during thecrafting of the Clean Power Plan.
The U.S. EPA believes Section 111 of the Clean Air Act was "thoughtfullyand carefully" applied to create the Clean Power Plan and the agency'sauthority to regulate power plants for carbon dioxide has been firmly backed upby the U.S. Supreme Court. In a brief filed March 28 with the U.S. Court ofAppeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the EPA called the opponents'claims that the Clean Power Plan will result in a restructuring of the entireelectric grid "hyperbolic mischaracterizations."
The TennesseeValley Authority has taken its Colbert fossil plant off line,marking the end of a 61-year run. The utility removed unit one from serviceMarch 23 at the 1,209 MW coal-fired power plant in Colbert County, Ala.Employees at Colbert were given the option to transfer to similar positions atthe utility's other fossil fuel plants, the TVA said.
Tribal conservation organizations failed in their quest tooverturn a nitrogen oxide emissions rule concerning the coal-fired NavajoGenerating Station in Arizona. The U.S. District Court for the NorthernDistrict of California dismissed the organizations' lawsuit against the U.S.EPA and the Department of the Interior on March 22, saying the court lackedjurisdiction because petitions for review of EPA actions must be consideredexclusively in federal appeals courts.
Months after threatening to do so, environmental groups havefiled a lawsuit against BerkshireHathaway Energy subsidiary PacifiCorparguing that the company has not dealt with contamination problems tied to coalash from its Huntingtonpower plant in Utah. The Sierra Club and the Healthy Environment Alliance ofUtah, or HEAL Utah, filed the complaint on Feb. 12 and served it to PacifiCorpon March 21.
After nine months of impasse, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf isletting the Republican-controlled Legislature's $30 billion 2015-2016 budgetbecome law without his signature in order to allow the funding of publicschools and other services in the short term. But Wolf is vetoing anaccompanying fiscal code that seeks to give the Legislature final say overcompliance with the U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan.
Lawmakers in Kansas have advanced a bill that would haltstate compliance with federal carbon emissions regulations on power plants,until the recent stay issued by the U.S. Supreme Court is lifted. The measurewas passed by the Senate Feb. 11 in a 37-2 vote. It was first introduced to theSenate Committee on Utilities in January.
The imposition of federal implementation plans under theClean Air Act has increased considerably under the Obama administration, fromfive for the previous three presidents combined to 54 during President BarackObama's term. Witnesses at a House subcommittee hearing testifying March 23 onthe U.S. EPA's regional haze rule's perceived impacts told members of Congressthat 15 of those plans were for the regional haze rule.