Virginia joins coalition suing Trump administration over Clean Power Plan replacement

Dominion's Chesterfield Power Station, the largest fossil-fuel powered plant in Virginia. (NBC 12)

Virginia joined 21 other states, the District of Columbia and six major metro areas on Tuesday in suing the Trump administration over its “unlawful” repeal of the Clean Power Plan.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges that the Obama-era plan’s replacement, the Affordable Clean Energy rule, violates the Clean Air Act and therefore should be reversed by the courts.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said in a news release that the administration’s replacement of the Clean Power Plan makes its lack of concern for climate change “painfully obvious.”

“I will continue to fight this new ‘Dirty Power’ rule and do everything I can to ensure that effective measures are put in place to cut down on pollution and reverse climate change in our country,” said Herring.

Last year, as the Environmental Protection Agency considered Trump’s replacement rule, Herring was one of 26 state and local attorneys general to sign onto a 152-page objection to the new regulation.

The Clean Power Plan instituted the nation’s first limits on greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel-powered plants. While the Trump administration concluded that the rule exceeded the statutory authority granted to the Environmental Protection Agency and repealed it before it could go into effect, the plan received major pushback from energy generators.

In 2015, Dominion Energy, Virginia’s largest electric utility, successfully obtained a base rate freeze from the General Assembly on the grounds that the Clean Power Plan would cause generation costs to go up by forcing plants to undertake expensive emissions reduction upgrades. State regulators said that freeze would not have shielded customers from compliance costs, which they said would be recouped by separate charges on electric bills called riders.

The Affordable Clean Energy rule, which was rolled out in August 2018, significantly weakens the restrictions placed on carbon emitters, removing the national limits and leaving it up to individual states to put a ceiling on their emissions.

EPA calculations have found that the Affordable Clean Energy plan will produce carbon emissions reductions of only 0.7 percent by 2030, compared to the 19 percent reduction estimated under the Clean Power Plan.