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Chamber of Commerce Joins Suit Against EPA Rules

By Margaret Carmel, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – The Virginia Chamber of Commerce has joined 166 other business organizations in supporting a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s Clean Power Plan, which would require states to cut carbon emissions.

The move puts the chamber on the opposite side of the issue from Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring. He has joined 17 other states in filing a brief supporting the regulations.

Since its unveiling by President Barack Obama in August 2014, the Clean Power Plan has been a contentious issue across the nation. It aims to reduce carbon emissions in the United States by 30 percent by 2030, mostly by regulating coal-burning power plants.

Like many other business groups, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce worries that the regulations would hurt economic development, especially in rural areas.

The plan “threatens to drive jobs overseas and force businesses to close, causing harm to communities that provide the workforce for this industry,” the chamber said last week in a friend of the court brief filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.

“Poor and rural communities will suffer disproportionately because they are served by smaller utilities that will be compelled to shut down or purchasing allowances and credits in renewable energy technologies, the costs of which will be borne by their relatively small base of ratepayers.”

In November, Herring filed a friend of the court brief in support of the regulations, which would be implemented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“I’m proud to stand up for cleaner air and cleaner energy in Virginia,” Herring said. “Our pollution reduction goal is ambitious and achievable, and it gives us a real opportunity to improve the health of our people, our environment, and to grow jobs and businesses in our clean energy sector. We should seize this opportunity.”

Fighting climate change and sea level rise has been a priority of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration. Officials have been especially concerned about Hampton Roads, home to Norfolk Naval Base and Langley Air Force Base.

In the Virginia General Assembly, Republicans overwhelmingly oppose the Clean Power Plan, while Democrats generally support it. Voting along party lines, legislators passed a bill requiring the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to get the assembly’s approval on any state efforts to implement the federal rules. McAuliffe has until midnight Tuesday to sign or veto the legislation (Senate Bill 21).

Legislators representing Virginia’s coalfields fear that the plan would put many miners out of work. Another major concern is that the regulations would cause a spike in electricity rates. According to an independent study commissioned by National Economic Research Associates, the Clean Power Plan could push electricity prices up between 11 and 14 percent nationwide.

West Virginia and 28 other states have sued to block the plan. On Feb. 9, in an unprecedented move, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on the regulations until the D.C. Court of Appeals rules later this year. The case is expected to return to the Supreme Court.

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