Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has spelled out a legal strategy he will employ to attack new federal limits on air pollution from America’s coal-burning power plants.
His strategy consists of legal hair-splitting: He contends that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cannot limit carbon dioxide under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act if it already policed the power plants under Section 112.
“It is clear that the EPA has no authority under Section 111(d) to regulate any emission from coal-fired power plants, including CO2 emissions,” he wrote to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “...I urge you to withdraw the proposed rule immediately and avoid needless litigation.”
Apparently, a costly court battle will be waged by West Virginia politicians in an attempt to prevent a power plant cleanup. In effect, they will use taxpayer money to defend pollution from this state’s powerful coal industry.
Nitpicking over legal technicalities ignores a much-bigger issue: whether America can regulate “greenhouse gases” that blanket the sky and reflect heat onto the planet’s surface — causing global warming that spawns worse storms, floods, droughts, wildfires and other expensive menaces to humanity. Be prepared for months or years of courtroom struggles to settle this fundamental question.
Around the nation, various newspapers applauded the Obama administration for trying to curb coal fumes. The Los Angeles Times called the cleanup plan “pragmatic, smart and overdue.” It added:
“Carbon dioxide from power plants is the largest contributor by far to changes in the climate that could be ruinous to the planet.... Global warming threatens to be an environmental catastrophe, and the United States must prevent as much of the damage as it can.... The cost of dealing with the worst effects of climate change will far outweigh the cost of preventing them.”
The Seattle Times advocated a shift from high-pollution fossil fuel to cleaner sources of energy. It told conservative politicians:
“The United States has an opportunity to develop and promote new jobs and employment going into the 21st century. Renewable energy, conservation and alternative energy forms look ahead. Promote the transition from coal, and quit chasing votes with a curious allegiance to 19th century technology.”
The DesMoines Register concluded:
“The question is whether the federal government should attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The answer is yes if we care about the quality of life of our children, grandchildren and generations beyond. Climate change is already affecting the intensity of storms and in the future will have a profound effect on the planet in many ways.”
A national battle is taking shape — and it will entangle West Virginia perhaps more than any other state.