HELENA — Montana and Wyoming joined 22 other states Friday in suing to block new rules they claim exceed the U.S. government’s authority to cut power-plant emissions.
President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan seeks to slow climate change by cutting carbon dioxide emissions nationwide by 32 percent over the next 15 years. It calls for states to come up with individual plans to meet widely varying targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
The lawsuit led by West Virginia was filed in the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, coinciding with the Environmental Protection Agency’s publication of the rules. The lawsuit claims the EPA exceeded its authority and abused its discretion in issuing the mandate.
Montana Attorney General Tim Fox said any such rules must come from Congress, and it doesn’t matter whether the EPA’s program is a good idea or a bad idea.
“Federal agencies simply don’t have the authority to make up new laws and they should not be permitted to unilaterally take over a major section of the economy while raising electric rates on American families,” Fox told reporters.
EPA officials have said the new rules will ultimately lower utility bills.
Montana state Sen. Dick Barrett, D-Missoula, said the EPA took action under the authority it has after Congress has failed to do so. Barrett, who co-authored a letter in support of the Clean Power Plan with 33 other legislators, said the federal overreach argument by the state attorneys general suing the EPA doesn’t ring true to him.
“They simply don’t want to shoulder the burden of dealing with these carbon emissions,” Barrett said. “They, just like Congress, want to sweep this issue under the rug.”
Wyoming also planned to file a separate lawsuit against the EPA over state-specific issues, Gov. Matt Mead’s office said.
“I have said from the get-go that this rule is legally and scientifically flawed,” Mead said in a statement.
Under the rules, states have until 2016 to submit their individual plans or request a two-year extension. They can choose to reduce either their emissions rates or the overall mass emissions.
Wyoming’s target is a 44 percent reduction in emissions rates compared to 2012 levels. Montana’s target is a 47 percent rate reduction.
Fox said it is critical that a federal judge immediately order a stay that blocks the rules while the lawsuit plays out, which will allow states to stop work on their individual plans.
Barrett said that would be foolish, especially if the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately upholds the rule.
“At some point, if we haven’t done anything, they’ll do something for us,” he said of the EPA.