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S.C. Sues EPA Over Coal-Plant Emissions Rules

SC joined 11 other states in a suit against the EPA over proposed new carbon dioxide regulations.
Smoke rises from stacks at a coal power plant (file photo)

Two months after the Environmental Protection Agency proposed new carbon dioxide regulations that would force South Carolina to cut its coal-plant emissions dramatically, the state has sued the agency.

South Carolina joined 11 other states, led by West Virginia, to sue the EPA, claiming the agency doesn't have legal authority to regulate power plant pollution under one section of the Clean Air Act when it already used another section of the act to regulate power plant pollution.

On June 2, the EPA announced its new plan to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent across the country. The agency issued different carbon-cutting thresholds that states would have to meet, and state officials and utilities have said South Carolina would be treated unfairly by having to cut its carbon by more than 47 other states.

Environmentalists: Coal Ash Bill Badly Flawed

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said the EPA was "overstepping its legal boundaries" and short-circuiting the constitutional process with its regulations.

"Federal bureaucrats can't be allowed to make up the rules as they go along," Wilson said.

The carbon rules would mean higher electric bills for South Carolinians, he said.

"That is why I'm joining with my fellow attorneys general in 11 states in fighting this action in court, to prevent bad federal policy from turning into bad news for people here in South Carolina," Wilson said.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia on Friday, came at the conclusion of a week of hearings the EPA scheduled in 10 cities across the country, including Atlanta, where it took feedback on its carbon plan.

State officials and environmental groups have vastly different opinions on the effect of the proposed rules on South Carolina.

The way the rule is crafted gives South Carolina options in how it cuts its carbon, either through energy-efficiency programs or adding renewable energy sources as it shifts from coal, environmental groups have said.

They say the state is well positioned to meet the limits because it's diversified in its energy mix already.

South Carolina generates 57 percent of its electricity from nuclear power and 25 percent from coal. The rest comes from natural gas or renewable sources.

South Carolina would have to cut its carbon output by 51.4 percent to meet the EPA's proposed rules by 2030.

Santee Cooper, the state's largest utility, called the regulations oppressive, and said the rules would harm the economy and drive jobs elsewhere.

Gov. Nikki Haley has said the rules would send the state backwards at a time when it's prospering.

Wilson said he wants to protect South Carolinians from having to pay drastically higher energy bills "because unelected bureaucrats are regulating through administrative fiat."

South Carolina joined Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming in the lawsuit.

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