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Reaction mixed as Clean Power Plan merits argued in DC Circuit

The reaction from government officials and industry groupsto oral arguments on the U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan was mixed.Many of the groups, both for and against the carbon rule, seemed confident thattheir side would prevail when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District ofColumbia Circuit ultimately rules on the case.

Petitioners arguedSept. 27 that the case is about whether, not how, power plants can be regulatedby the EPA for carbon dioxide emissions to the degree mandated by the agency.One of the key issues discussed during the day-long hearing before an en bancgroup of judges was whether the changes mandated by the Clean Power Plan are "transformative"and therefore can only be required by Congress.

The rule, which the EPA finalized in August 2015, would require states to meetindividual carbon emissions rate limits at existing power plants beginning in2022. More than half of U.S. states and several power industry groups filedsuit in the D.C. Circuit to overturnthe rule, but a coalition of 18 states and many environmental organizationsfiled petitions tointervene in the case on the EPA's behalf. The U.S. Supreme Court the rule in Februaryuntil all legal challenges are resolved.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said thecoalition of states and power industry groups "made very strong argumentsabout the illegality" of the plan. "We finally had our day in courtand it didn't disappoint," Morrisey said in a statement. He said heanticipates his side will be successful if the court agrees with any of thearguments made by the petitioners, which covered a "wide variety of legaldefects with the regulation."

"I've always believed that we have the law on our side,"Morrisey said.

Murray EnergyCorp.'s Chairman, President and CEO Robert Murray called the CleanPower Plan a "political power grab of America's power grid," sayinghe is hopeful that the court "follows the law and completely invalidatesthis illegal and very damaging rule."

On the other side of the issue, Tom Kimbis, interimpresident of the Solar Energy Industries Association, or SEIA, said the planshould be upheld on its merits because of the role it will play in fightingclimate change, which he called a "a grave environmental and nationalsecurity threat."

"We expect that the court will correctly determine thatthe EPA has acted well within its authority under the Clean Air Act and lookforward to its decision ultimately upholding this critical rule," Kimbissaid.

Business group Advanced Energy Economy's Malcolm Woolf saidhe thinks the oral arguments will help federal policy "catch up to themarket."

"States like North Carolina, Oklahoma and South Dakotahave already met their early targets and others like Arkansas have achievedtheir final 2030 requirement," Woolf said. "Despite the stay whilethe case makes its way through the courts, nearly half the states are preparingto meet their EPA goals because it is needed for utility planning."

"The Clean Power Plan will only accelerate changes inthe electric power system already under way, and provide market certainty forthe growth of advanced energy products and services," Woolf added. "Inthe end, the Clean Power Plan's goals will be neither costly nor difficult to achieve."