Malloy set to defend Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan

In this file photo, Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy speaks in Laurel Hall at the University of Connecticut on Feb. 26, 2014. Malloy and Attorney General George Jepsen said they stand in support of the Clean Power Plan, developed by President Barack Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (File Photo/The Daily Campus)

Connecticut has pledged to defend the Clean Power Plan (CPP) from legal assaults by its opponents, according to a press release from the state attorney general’s office.

Gov. Dannel Malloy and Attorney General George Jepsen said they stand in support of the plan – developed by President Barack Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – in statements released on Aug. 3.

“This is about our future,” Malloy said in the statement. “The action we take now will endure for generations to come. I commend President Obama and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for their ongoing commitment to address climate change and for the Clean Power Plan released today. In Connecticut, we have already implemented a forward-thinking vision, reducing carbon pollution by more than 10 percent from 1990 levels.”

Jepsen said Connecticut is one of “25 states, cities and counties” that have formed a coalition in order to file “a motion to intervene to defend the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan against legal challenges.”

The coalition plans to provide legal backing for the plan in courts where it is being challenged.

"My office, in partnership with the coalition, stands ready to support and assist the EPA throughout the implementation of the plan,” Jepsen said in the statement. “We believe the plan sets reasonable limits on emissions of climate change pollution from new and existing power plants and that the plan is firmly grounded in law."

The plan has been years in the making, based on at least a decade of research of power plant greenhouse gas emissions.

Other states involved in the coalition are New York, Delaware, Illinois, Hawaii, California, Maryland, Vermont, Maine, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Washington, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Virginia and Oregon.

Rich Miller, the director of the Office of Environmental Policy at UConn, said that fighting the opposition to the plan is a symbolic move.

“It may be symbolic but it’s also strategically smart. It’s about time that states like Connecticut were more proactive about leveling the playing field and standing in defense of federal clean energy policy,” Miller said. “Other states have enjoyed an economic competitive advantage for a long time because coal is such a cheap energy source.  Not only have we paid more for cleaner power in Connecticut, but we’ve also suffered the consequences of pollution, not just GHGs, but smog and acid rain, that is generated at dirty power plants in other states and transported through the atmosphere into our region.”

Back in August, Obama announced the CPP in hopes of decreasing carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. The CPP is most concerned with the electricity sector, which the EPA said in an April 2015 study accounts for 31 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

The Obama administration and the EPA hope that the CPP will reduce the level of carbon dioxide from where it was in 2005 by 32 percent in 2030. According to the plan, states will be held responsible by varying lessened emissions goals.

The CPP has vocal critics who have begun to use the legal system to try and dismantle it. A study conducted by NERA Economic Consulting reported that the plan will increase the price of electricity in 47 states, and estimated that the cost of the plan will come to $292 billion. This study was funded by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, an outspoken rival of the plan.

The EPA said it did not read the study and did not take it seriously. Its numbers show the CPP will cost $8.4 billion, but predict that it will have between $34 billion and $54 billion in economic advantages each year for both health and climate.

Legal challenges to the plan have come from 24 states and further legal action may be taken by electric utilities and fossil fuel organizations. Their argument is that the CPP is excessive federal intervention and will weaken the electric grid. States like West Virginia, which is largely reliant on coal, are leading the offensive against the plan. Congressional Republicans plan to put forth proposals blocking the plan as well.

Miller does not believe there is a high likelihood of overturning the plan through the legal system since the United States Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts v. EPA (2007) that the EPA has the right to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Clean Air Act. Miller went on to question the motives of the states against the plan.

“It’s (the opposition to the CPP) based almost entirely on the economics and associated politics of the states that are seeking to challenge EPA’s authority,” Miller said. “There are still many states in the Midwest and South whose industrial economies are driven predominantly by coal-fired power plants, which would undoubtedly be severely impacted by state regulations that would stem from the Clean Power Plan. Electricity in Kentucky and Ohio for example, is still 80-90% derived from coal-fired power plants.  It’s the cheapest and the dirtiest, most carbon intensive fossil fuel.  On top of that, Kentucky is also a coal mining state – so the CPP would hit their economy harder than most.”

The CPP, to Miller, is an important first step in combatting climate change.


Sten Spinella is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at sten.spinella@uconn.edu.