Congress backs court challenge to Obama’s climate plan

Michael Biesecker
Associated Press

Washington — More than 200 members of Congress are backing a court challenge to President Barack Obama’s plan to curtail greenhouse gas emissions.

A brief filed Tuesday with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington argues that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its legal authority and defied the will of Congress by regulating carbon dioxide emissions.

Led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton R-St. Joseph, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, those signing on include Republican presidential candidates and senators Ted Cruz of Texas, and Marco Rubio of Florida. Of the 34 senators and 171 House members listed, Sen. Joe Manchin of coal-dependent West Virginia is the lone Democrat.

Other Michigan congressmen signing the brief were Bill Huizenga, Mike Bishop, John Moolenaar, David Trott and Tim Walberg.

“If Congress desired to give EPA sweeping authority to transform the nation’s electricity sector, Congress would have provided for that unprecedented power in detailed legislation,” the brief says.

The White House downplayed the lawmakers’ brief, describing it as part of “continual pushback from obstructionist Republicans in Congress who don’t even believe in the science of climate change.”

“We remain confident that we will prevail on the merits when the plan gets it full day in court,” said White House spokesman Frank Benenati.

About two dozen mostly GOP-led states, including Michigan, have sued to stop the Clean Power Plan, which aims to slow climate change by cutting power-plant emissions by one-third by 2030. The state of Michigan said last week it is no longer preparing to comply with the new emissions regulations for coal-fired power plants and will instead wait until courts resolve the issue.

The Supreme Court last month barred the Obama administration from implementing the plan until legal challenges are resolved.

The attorneys general of West Virginia and Texas are leading the legal fight, backed by 27 conservative states where some officials are openly dismissive of climate science and where many jobs rely on economic activity tied to fossil fuels.

Argument of the case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is set to begin June 2. Under the Clean Air Act, certain challenges to new EPA rules skip the federal district court and go directly to the appeals court. Further appeal to the Supreme Court is almost certain, pushing any final decision into at least 2017.

Implementation of new emissions rules is considered essential to the U.S. meeting carbon-reduction targets in a global climate agreement signed in Paris.