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W.Va.-led arguments in EPA suit set for Thursday

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is confident the law is on the side of states suing the EPA over a proposal to cut carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, but he’s not ready to predict victory yet.

“We recognize that we’re in a David-vs.-Goliath situation,” the Republican attorney general said Monday during an interview at The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

The Mountain State is taking the lead in a lawsuit against the federal Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Oral arguments are scheduled to be offered Thursday.

The lawsuit challenges the agency’s ability to implement the new standards – which would cut carbon emissions 30 percent by the year 2030 – because they are already governed under another section of U.S. code.

The rules the EPA is relying on lie outside the code itself and giving them credence would essentially double-regulate the matter, Morrisey said.

Certain emission reductions would be required by 2020. Companies will be unable to retrofit existing plants to meet the standards in time, which will cause more facilities to close, Morrisey said.

That, in turn, will affect the reliability of the national power grid, in addition to its effect on the economy, he said.

Because those impacts are already being felt, and because the administration seems adamant about finalizing the rule, Morrisey said he sees no reason to wait until the rule goes into effect to challenge it.

“If their intent is that clear, then why do we have to wait another year, when all the damage is going to have been done?” he said.

West Virginia is being joined in the suit by 11 other states, including Ohio. But this isn’t the only approach opponents are using to stop the emissions rule.

“This is the first round of likely many (challenges) that we’re going to be seeing,” Morrisey said.

“I think we’re correct on the law, but we are asking the court for a significant ruling, so it’s difficult to predict whether we’ll prevail now” or later, he said.

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