WASHINGTON — Twelve states filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration on Friday seeking to block an Environmental Protection Agency proposal to regulate coal-fired power plants in an effort to stem climate change.
The plaintiffs are led by West Virginia and include states that are home to some of the largest producers of coal and consumers of coal-fired electricity.
Republicans have attacked the E.P.A. proposal as a “war on coal,” saying that it will shut down plants and eliminate jobs in states that depend on mining. But the rule is also opposed by the Democratic governors of West Virginia and Kentucky.
“This lawsuit represents another effort by our office to invalidate the E.P.A.’s proposed rule that will have devastating effects on West Virginia’s jobs and its economy,” the state’s attorney general, Patrick Morrisey, said in a statement.
On Thursday, Alpha Natural Resources notified 1,100 employees that layoffs and reduced operations were possible at 11 West Virginia mines. The company cited numerous reasons for the possible cutbacks, including the new regulation.
Mr. Morrisey said his office would “use every legal tool available” to protect coal miners and their families. “We can’t afford to see more announcements like we saw with Alpha Natural Resources yesterday,” he said. The suit was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The other plaintiffs are Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming.
The E.P.A. rule, announced by President Obama on June 2, is aimed at slashing carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, the nation’s largest source of planet-warming pollution. Under the rule, each state would have to design and submit a plan to cut carbon pollution, which must then be approved by the E.P.A.
The states’ lawsuit contends that the E.P.A. lacks legal authority in the matter. The agency wants to release the final rule under the terms of the Clean Air Act, which requires the federal government to regulate all substances defined as pollutants. The E.P.A. determined in 2009 that carbon dioxide met the definition of a pollutant, a decision that has withstood numerous legal challenges.
But the states say that the E.P.A. may not issue separate regulations on power plants using different sections of the Clean Air Act. In 2011, the E.P.A. issued regulations governing mercury emissions; thus, the plaintiffs say, it does not have the authority to issue a new regulation on carbon emissions from the same power plants.
Scott Segal, a lawyer who represents companies and utilities lobbying against the rule, predicted that the lawsuit was the first of more to come. “I wouldn’t be surprised if one gets kicked to the Supreme Court,” he said.
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