Attorney Generals from 26 U.S. States have filed court action against the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan (CPP). The Clean Power Plan establishes state-by-state targets for lowering carbon emissions. It aims to reduce national electricity sector emissions by 32 percent by 2030.
Led by coal-producing West Virginia, the group claims the Plan will damage the country's coal industry, already reeling from lesser demand. They also claim it will raise electricity prices and diminish the grid’s reliability.
However as leaders at the state level push back against the new policy, many officials at the municipal level are embracing it. The legal action flies in the face of last month’s announcement by the National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, where it was announced that they uphold CPP and that they will not support any moves to stop it.
Michael Burger, the executive director of Columbia Law School’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law says local governments are CPP supporters because they are on the front lines of climate change. He says their opposition to any legal action to stop CPP sends a clear message to the court “that the Clean Power Plan enjoys widespread nationwide support from local government leaders.”
The National League of Cities represents some 19,000 communities, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors is made up of majors from 1,200 cities, which have populations of 30,000 residents.
The state-city split over CPP support is another example in the growing list of policy disagreements between federal, state and local leadership. Although in this case, city leaders are far more open to the issue of climate change as they have more to gain than their state legislatures do.
Burger says that because of the split in support, it is very likely the case will eventually make its way up to the Supreme Court. He says whatever way the ruling goes, the local blocs forming around this legal battle may set the standard for future climate change battles as well as having big implications for the ability of the U.S. to meet its commitments to cutting carbon emissions.