A federal court has dismissed the first lawsuit seeking to block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from new or modified powerplants.
In the Oct. 6 order, the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska's Judge John Gerrard said the state’s lawsuit was premature.
“Simply stated, the state cannot sue in federal court to challenge a rule that the EPA has not yet actually made,” Gerrard said, adding, “The state has jumped the gun.”
Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning filed a lawsuit on Jan. 15, challenging EPA’s January 2014 proposal to limit emissions of carbon dioxide from newly built, fossil-fuel-fired electric-utility powerplants.
In the lawsuit, Bruning argued that the proposed rule violated portions of the 2005 Energy Policy Act by basing some of its conclusions on information from energy facilities that received federal assistance. Although the 2005 energy law provided federal funds for developing more-efficient coal technologies, it also included provisions that limit EPA’s authority to rely on information from those facilities to develop regulations.
But Gerrard said the state would have to wait to file any legal challenges until the rule becomes final. “If Congress had wished to allow immediate, interlocutory appeals of proposed rulemaking under the Clean Air Act, it could have done so. It did not, and for good reason: Making environmental regulations is difficult and complicated enough without having federal judges weigh in at every step along the way.”
Environmental groups, including the Environmental Defense Fund, praised the court’s decision to grant EPA’s request to dismiss the lawsuit.
A separate case challenging EPA's proposed standards for existing powerplants is pending in a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C.