N.C. Senate moves to block implementation of the EPA Clean Power Plan

Don van der Vaart Secretary, N.C. Department of Energy and Natural Resources

Don van der Vaart
Secretary, N.C. Department of Energy and Natural Resources

RALEIGH – The state Senate will take its first steps toward blocking the state from implementing the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s name for a plan to regulate carbon dioxide emissions nationwide. At 10 a.m. in the Senate Agriculture/Environment and Natural Resources Committee meeting, members will file a substitute bill to fight back against the federal regulations by prohibiting state agencies from developing the state plan until a federal judicial review of the legality of the EPA’s plan is complete, or July 1, 2016, whichever is later.

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan is a centerpiece of President Obama’s environmental agenda and is an effort by the federal government to use the Clean Air Act to implement regulations over carbon emissions of stationary power sources such as electricity-generating power plants.

When the EPA first proposed the plan, DENR Secretary Donald van der Vaart questioned the legitimacy of the agency’s top-down take over of state’s air quality policies because the federal Clean Air Act specifically states that the states have the “primary responsibility” to protect the nation’s air quality.

“There are serious questions concerning EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources under the Clean Air Act,” he told Congress in testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce last year. “States such as North Carolina are at risk of investing unnecessary time and resources if they move forward with developing and enacting a plan prior to the resolution of litigation…. If the EPA wants to transform America’s power system by forcing a round peg into the square hole… it should have the prudence to allow the final rule to be reviewed by the courts before requiring states to undertake such a Herculean effort.”

However, now that the federal government has moved the process forward, van der Vaart believes the best tactic is to allow North Carolina to shape its own State Plan.  Jones & Blount contacted his office to discuss his previous testimony in light of the EPA’s decision to move forward with requesting State Plans.

“Secretary van der Vaart has consistently sought a stay of the Clean Power Plan at the federal level. His efforts resulted in the U.S. House of Representative’s overwhelming passage of H.R. 2402 — Ratepayer Protection Act of 2015, of which 10 of North Carolina’s 13 House members voted in favor,” his office said in a statement to Jones & Blount.  “Absent a federal stay, van der Vaart has worked with other states to recognize the need to submit a plan consistent with the Clean Air Act, limited to building block 1, in order to prevent the EPA from taking over our electricity generating system and hamstringing North Carolina’s ability to challenge the rule.”

Once the EPA is presented with the states’ plans, the agency has the choice to accept or reject them.  Should they be accepted, implementation in the states would proceed. Should a state’s plan be rejected, it would have the right to pursue litigation. Today’s committee hearing will shed more light on the issue as lawmakers work to chart the best course of action for the state.