Virginia AG Mark Herring backs EPA global warming plan

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has joined 17 other states and local governments in filing a legal brief that supports the Obama Administration's Clean Power Plan.

The new Environmental Protection Agency regulations, aimed at reducing global warming through stiff rules on power plants, has generated harsh criticism from attorneys general in some states.

In a press release, Herring, a Democrat who has already signaled he will seek re-election as attorney general in 2017, said now is the time for decisive action on climate change.

"The Clean Power Plan gives Virginia a tremendous opportunity to realize the economic, health, and environmental benefits of cleaner air and cleaner energy generation," Herring said.

"The fact is, climate change is a real and urgent threat to the health and safety of Virginians, our environment, and our economic success as a Commonwealth. We simply can't ignore it any longer."

The Obama Administration unveiled the Plan in August, calling it "a historic and important step in reducing carbon pollution from power plants that takes real action on climate change."

Using its authority under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency "is establishing interim and final carbon dioxide emission performance rates for the two types of electric generating units — steam electric and natural gas fired power plants."

The EPA has set a goal of reducing carbon emissions by Virginia power plants from a 2012 baseline figure of 1,477 pounds per megawatt hour to 934 pounds per megawatt hour. According to the EPA's Virginia Clean Power Plan fact sheet, this reduction is "one of the moderate state goals, compared to other state goals in the final Clean Power Plan."

Nationwide, the plan seeks to reduce greenhouse emissions from energy plants by 32 percent.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe applauded Herring's actions and linked it to his effort to diversify Virginia's economy. Herring and McAuliffe are both Democrats.

"I look forward to our continued work together to make Virginia a leader in implementing the CPP by making clean energy technology a centerpiece of our efforts to build a new Virginia economy," McAuliffe said Thursday.

Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told AMI Newswire the Clean Power Plan is packaged as an air-quality plan in order to make it seem more politically palatable.

"The EPA's top communications advisor gave (then-EPA) administrator Lisa Jackson the bad news that Gallup showed the public cared about air quality, but not global warming," Horner told AMI Newswire.

"He called the latter 'an increasingly — and consistently — unpersuasive argument,' concluding that whatever they did must be packaged as really being about that which voters care about."

Hence, Horner said, the switch to "air quality" and claims of increasing incidents of asthma in children due to carbon pollution.

"It may work on activist attorneys general," Horner said, "but I doubt it will in the courts."

The plan has proved less popular among other state attorneys general. In October, a coalition of 24 states and a coal company, Ohio-based Murray Energy, challenged the Clean Power Plan in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who is spearheading the legal challenge, wrote in the states' legal brief that "the final rule is in excess of the agency's statutory authority and otherwise is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and not in accordance with law."