by Cathy Cash | Electric Co-op Today staff writer
Electric cooperatives said they welcome the U.S. Supreme Court’s Feb. 9 decision to block the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan until all legal challenges to it are resolved.
“Charging ahead with implementation of the Clean Power Plan would have caused immediate and irreparable harm to America’s electric co-ops,” said Jeffrey Connor, interim CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
“Had the stay not been granted, co-ops would have been forced to take costly and irreversible steps to comply with the rule, which is a huge overreach of EPA’s legal authority. The Clean Power Plan is a direct threat to co-ops’ ability to provide affordable and reliable electricity to their member consumers and should be erased from the books.”
Under the 5-4 order, the Clean Power Plan is on hold until the Supreme Court either takes up the case and issues a final decision, or denies a request to hear an appeal.
That means a final resolution might not come until 2017. A federal appeals court is scheduled to take up arguments on the case in June.
Basin Electric Power Cooperative petitioned the Supreme Court Jan. 27 to stay the Clean Power Plan after a federal appeals court rejected pleas to halt the rule. NRECA, 38 electric co-ops and other utility interests joined the petition.
The order, issued without explanation, responds to a similar request filed by 29 states and industry interests. Legal analysts noted that it is unusual for the court to issue such a stay when a regulation has been finalized, indicating the court has doubts about the plan’s legality.
The Clean Power Plan sets carbon dioxide limits for each state to achieve an overall emissions reduction of 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The rule’s compliance period was set to begin in 2022. It is aimed at fossil-fuel generation.
NRECA has estimated that total compliance costs for electric co-ops could reach as much as $28 billion.
An appeals court is scheduled to hear arguments in June.
“We’re very pleased to learn to that the Supreme Court has put the brakes on this massive overreach of EPA’s regulatory authority,” said Derick Thomas, director of Clay Electric’s Member & Public Relations Department.
“At Clay Electric, we always work to provide affordable and reliable electricity to our members. We needed the Clean Power Plan stay so that Seminole Electric Cooperative, our wholesale power provider, would not have to make immediate compliance decisions that would harm the affordability and reliability of our electricity.”