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EPA authority to craft Clean Power Plan supported by lawmakers; Mining interests, BLM fight green groups' legal challenge over coal leases

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EPA authority to craft Clean Power Plan supported by lawmakers; Mining interests, BLM fight green groups' legal challenge over coal leases

Over 200 lawmakers defend EPA authority to craft Clean Power Plan

Congressgave the U.S. EPA "gap-filling" authority under the Clean Air Act to draftregulations for an array of emissions and sources, providing a firm legal foundationfor the Clean Power Plan, a group of more than 200 former and current members ofCongress told a federal appeals court March 31.

Criticsof the rule say the EPA cannot regulatecarbon output from existing power plants under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Actwhile regulating air toxics from those plants under Section 112. But the lawmakerssaid that argument "fundamentally misunderstands" the Clean Air Act andthe regulatory latitude it gives the EPA.

"Byenacting a gap-filling provision that would give EPA flexibility to address newpollution problems, Congress ensured that the federal government would be able torespond to new and diverse challenges not anticipated at the time the law was enacted,and that EPA could tailor regulations to the specific nature of the pollutant andsource," the brief said.

Mining interests, BLM push back against environmental lawsuit over coalleases

Mininginterests and the nation's leading coal producer this week fired back against environmentalgroups suing over federalcoal leases, claiming that the groups cannot prove injury from alleged failure bythe government to consider climate-change impacts in approving the leases.

The groups,including Wildlife Guardians and the Sierra Club appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuitto hear their challenge to a ruling that supported leases for the South Hilight,North Hilight, South Porcupine and North Porcupine tracts in the Powder River Basin.

In responseto the appeal, Peabody Energy Corp.and other western coal mining interests argued that the groups could not prove thatany alleged impacts on global climate change would be felt locally, impacting theirenjoyment of local aesthetics.

The BLMalso filed a response to the lawsuit April 4 saying that the four leases were "thoroughlyexamined" with respect to greenhouse gas emissions from burning all the coalreserves prior to issuing the leases.

North Carolina sues EPA to compel action on ozone complaint

A newlawsuit filed by NorthCarolina environmental regulators is intended to compel the U.S. EPA to act on acomplaint that alleged the state and others are contributing to ozone pollutionin the Northeast.

NineNortheastern states in December 2013 petitioned the EPA to expand the ozone transportregion to include Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee,Virginia and West Virginia. The expansion would effectively require operators inthose states to install emissions controls on their power plants, which North Carolinacalled "unnecessary and expensive."

The NorthCarolina Department of Environmental Quality now has filed a complaint in the U.S.District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Western Division in aneffort to force the agency to take action to approve or deny the original petition.

"NorthCarolina is a leader in cleaning up its energy sector," NCDEQ General CounselSam Hayes said in a news release March 30. "The Northeastern states' petitionwas nothing more than a political attempt to shift the blame for poor air qualityin the Northeast."

Multi-agency report details climate change risk to American public health

A newreport from a numberof U.S. executive Cabinet departments details the significant threat that climatechange poses to the public health of Americans.

The reportbuilds on the federal government's 2014 National Climate Assessment, which explainedhow climate change is already affectingevery region of the country and major sectors of the U.S. economy, including theenergy industry.

The report— "The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States"— focuses more specifically on health impacts, finding that climate change furthercomplicates some existing health threats and creates new public health challenges.While all Americans are at risk, the report said, some populations, including thoseof low income, communities of color, immigrant groups, indigenous people, childrenand pregnant women, are disproportionately impacted.

Google, Apple file court brief describing Clean Power Plan as 'good forbusiness'

The U.S.EPA's Clean Power Plan will offer electricity generators and sellers even more opportunitiesto work with companies like GoogleInc., Apple Inc.,Amazon.com Inc. and in developing newapproaches to support renewable energy, the companies say.

The fourtech companies all have ambitious carbon reduction goals and plan to power, or alreadyare powering, operations with 100% renewable energy.

Renewablesare also cost-effective — cheaper, even in some instances than fossil generation— and can provide protection from price volatility seen with fossil fuel-drivengeneration, the companies said. The companies also said they "have found thatincreasing the use of renewable energy is good for the environment and good forbusiness."

Vigo Coal seeks water permit for surface coal mining on 734 acres inIllinois

is seeking a permitto discharge fill material into streams in southern Illinois to extract about 2.4million tons of coal near its Friendsville mine in Wabash County.

Accordingto a public notice filed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the company proposesto discharge fill material into 7,473 linear feet of intermittent streams, 16,660linear feet of ephemeral streams and 4,225 linear feet of perennial streams of FordiceCreek and unnamed tributaries.

The proposalwould also affect approximately 53 acres of wetlands.

The companyhas offered to mitigate impacts of the plan by restoring 21,369 feet of ephemeral,intermittent and perennial stream channels both on-site and off-site within theFordice Creek watershed. Impacts on the wetlands would be mitigated by enhancinga total of almost 154 acres of wetlands at two separate off-site areas, the noticesaid.

Groups call on NC governor to protect residents near coal ash ponds

Conservationgroups sent a letter to North Carolina's governor urging him to reinstate "donot drink" advisories for drinking wells near the state's coal ash ponds andreverse "missteps" related to ash management.

The letter,sent April 4 to Gov. Pat McCrory, also demands that he direct leadership at thestate's Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Health and Human Servicesto "stop misleading the public" about the risks of coal ash contaminationin drinking water and investigate why warnings were lifted.

The U.S.Department of Health and Human Services in March informed hundreds of residentswho live near coal ash sites that their water is now safe to drink.

The conservationgroups, which include the Southern Environmental Law Center, Waterkeeper Allianceand Yadkin Riverkeeper, contend that the water is still not safe to drink and thatMcCrory's administration is "hiding behind shortcomings in the Safe DrinkingWater Act and the failures of neighboring states and the federal government to enactadequate health protections."

Environmental review of Gateway coal terminal halted amid fishing concerns

An environmentalreview of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal in Washington has been suspendedafter the Lummi Nation urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deny the project'spermit amid concerns on the tribal group's fishingpractices, The Associated Press reported April 1.

The postponementwas announced April 1 by SSA Marine,which owns 51% of the project.

The Lummitribe said that despite the announcement from SSA Marine, the Corps has made nodecision on the project. "We have submitted years of research showing thata terminal violates Lummi's treaty rights, and we remain confident that the Corpswill follow the law and make the right decision to deny the permit," Tim BallewII, chairman of the Lummi Indian Business Council, said in a statement.