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The date is approaching for EPA to finalize its rules for controlling carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, and states are contemplating their responses to those rules. A number of commentators have recommended that states “just say no” to EPA and refuse to prepare state plans complying with the rules. Some states are considering bills and a few have enacted laws that would make it difficult for their state environmental agencies to prepare responses that EPA could accept. In turn, EPA has announced it will release a “federal implementation plan” (FIP) for states that fail to submit legally adequate plans.

Daniel P. Selmi, a professor of law at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, and a visiting scholar at the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, has written an essay arguing that states should think carefully before “saying no” and refusing to submit a complying plan to EPA. The essay discusses five consequences of not participating: (1) EPA must impose FIPS that will probably focus on power plants, and states will cede regulatory control to the federal government; (2) Ratepayers likely will fare worse under a FIP than under a state-crafted plan; (3) Temporizing now and deciding to prepare a compliance plan later will involve delays in extracting the state from the FIP; (4) Late compliers may lose important opportunities for efficient compliance and informational benefits that accrue from participating at the outset; and (5) “saying no” to avoid a predicted political backlash is unnecessary. Finally, the essay argues that, because the need to respond to climate change will not disappear, states are better off beginning now to plan their transition to a power system with reduced carbon emissions.


Environmental Law | Law