Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia are among the states challenging the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan, or CPP, in oral arguments Tuesday before the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.
The CPP aims to reduce by about a third the power plant emissions of CO2, a greenhouse gas that scientists have identified as a major cause of climate change. The pollution reductions would come in phases over a little more than two decades.
Supporters, including 19 states, several scientific and conservation groups, and some electric utilities, say the CPP is a reasonable way to reduce pollution and help the country meet its international pledge to avoid dangerous levels of warming in the future.
Opponents, including 27 states, several business groups, and members of the oil and coal industries, say the plan intrudes on state rights and would place undue hardship on regions that depend on coal to generate electricity. Coal produces more CO2 per unit of energy gained, making it the dirtiest of fossil fuels when it comes to climate impacts.
The case, known as West Virginia v. EPA, has already been before the U.S. Supreme Court, which voted 5-4 in February to stay the implementation of the CPP and send the case back to the appeals court.
Rather than have a small panel of judges hear the case, as is the norm, the U.S. Circuit Court made the unusual decision to have all the court’s judges hear the hours of arguments in the case. This “en banc” hearing will speed the almost certain appeal, and most court observers say the suit will likely be back before the Supreme Court next year.
Under the CPP, each affected state would have to meet a given target for reducing CO2 pollution from power plants by the year 2030. The plan gives states flexibility in how to achieve those reductions. This interactive graphic helps explain the scale and timeline of emissions reductions that Kentucky would have to meet if the CPP goes forward.