CHARLESTON - West Virginia and eight other states filed a major brief in the United States Supreme Court Thursday opposing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's new rule on cross-state air pollution. "Coal and natural gas are a critical component of our nation's electrical grid and our state's economy. West Virginia is the second largest producer of coal, and our natural gas industry is booming. This move by the EPA is just one more effort to slam the door on energy-producing states," West Virginia Attorney General Morrisey said. "It is a blatant attempt to promote a reckless agenda that picks winners and losers and puts our nation's goal for energy independence in a tenuous position."
Morrisey said he believes this is the first time in at least two decades that an attorney general from the Mountain State has led in the authoring of a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court involving the EPA.
The friend of the court brief argues that EPA exceeded its authority under the federal Clean Air Act when the agency promulgated a rule in 2011 announcing new air pollution cuts and imposing federal implementation plans on states. The brief argues the CAA requires the EPA to give states an opportunity to decide how to meet new air pollution standards.
West Virginia is joined on the brief by a bipartisan group of attorneys general from Arizona, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. The brief supports 15 other states, industry groups and labor organizations who sued EPA in 2011.
In August 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C., Circuit struck down the regulation, saying that it "exceeds the agency's statutory authority." The Supreme Court agreed to review the rule earlier this year. "Our office is very concerned about the Environmental Protection Agency's cross-state air pollution rule targeting coal- and natural gas-fired power plants," Morrisey said.
"The agency's rule imposes one-size-fits-all federal plans on power plants and utilities, costing them $2.4 billion per year to comply. This issue is something that I thought our office should have been involved in fighting aggressively when the regulations were announced, and I believe this step will help protect West Virginia's interests."
Morrisey said attempts by the EPA and the Obama administration to control emissions from power plants will have real-life consequences on West Virginians who make their living in the energy sector.
"I've seen little from the White House or the EPA on what people in Boone, Marshall, Logan, Marion, Mingo, Monongalia and other counties around the state should do when their local coal mines have layoffs," Morrisey continued. "Nor have they said what everyone should do when their power bills go up. West Virginia cannot idly sit by and allow politicians and bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., to cripple our economy."
The parties to the case will present oral arguments before the Supreme Court in December. A decision is expected by next June.