By Enrique Saenz
Indiana Environmental Reporter
INDIANAPOLIS – The Hoosier State is fighting the Biden administration’s efforts to decarbonize power generation by questioning whether the federal government has been granted that power by Congress.
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita joined the attorneys general of 18 other fossil fuel-dependent states in filing a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the limits of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate environmental issues.
“I am taking action to protect Hoosiers from an out-of-control EPA. These ideological activists, and the groups that act in concert with them, ultimately are bent on destroying capitalism and our way of life,” Rokita told the Indiana Environmental Reporter in a written statement. “No one should deny the need and priority to conserve our precious God-given resources, but it is foolish to placate such arbitrary and harsh parameters, and the consequences of adopting such measures, based on the ideological whims of subjective zealots.”
The basis of the petition is a January 2021 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that upheld the repeal of the Trump administration’s polluter-friendly Affordable Clean Energy Rule.
The ACE Rule gave states power to enforce federal standards for coal-fired power plant emissions, in place of often-stricter state standards. It also fully repealed the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, a rule that would have tightly regulated emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants but was cast into legal limbo by the Supreme Court after several states, including Indiana, sued to stop its implementation.
The attorneys general involved in the petition said the appeals court’s decision was “wrong” and has “massive consequences” for the electrical sector.
“EPA now has a judicial edict not to limit itself to measures that can be successfully implemented at and for individual facilities. It can set standards on a regional or even national level, forcing dramatic changes in how and where electricity is produced, as well as transforming any other sector of the economy where stationary sources emit greenhouse gases,” the suit states. “Power to regulate factories, hospitals, hotels and even homes would have tremendous costs and consequences for all Americans; EPA’s steps on remand and every regulation under the statute to follow will be shaped by this new and wildly expansive authority.”
The petition is supported by coal industry trade organizations like the National Mining Association; America’s Power, which represents Alliance Resource Partners LP, the owners of coal mines and operations in Gibson and Posey counties; and Basin Electric Power Cooperative, the Great Plains branch of the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives, a federation of more than 750 electric cooperatives, 40 of which are located in Indiana.
The Supreme Court chooses to hear only a small percentage of cases submitted, averaging about 2% every year. If the case is selected, the court’s decisions could have wide-ranging effects for the state of Indiana, which relies almost exclusively on regulations set by the federal government to limit emissions from coal and other fossil fuel plants.
Burning coal releases harmful gases and particles, like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which can affect the respiratory system and cause other health problems.
Those and other emissions are regulated by the EPA, which is empowered by the Clean Air Act to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The standards establish the maximum amount of a pollutant that can be emitted into the air by facilities like power plants before it is considered to be harmful to human health and the environment.
Rokita’s current petition is part of a series of fossil-fuel friendly interventions by the Indiana Attorney General’s office.
In March, Rokita enlisted the state of Indiana to fight the Biden administration over an executive order that reintroduced a method for calculating the social cost of greenhouse gases in cost-benefit analyses for federal regulations.
Rokita’s predecessor, former Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, filed a brief along with 12 other attorneys general in support of 21 domestic and international energy companies that argued public nuisance laws should not be used to sue fossil fuel companies for climate change effects.
Hill also filed a motion in support of the ACE Rule in the same lawsuit Rokita hopes to get the Supreme Court to review.
The Biden administration has until July 6 to file a response to the petition.
This article was made available through Hoosier State Press Association.