Vermont attorney general joins lawsuit to try and save Obama’s clean power plan

Michael Bielawski/TNR

ONLY GREEN IN VERMONT:- State Attorney General TJ Donovan is having Vermont join a coalition of states to sue the Environmental Protection Agency over a proposal to loosen restrictions on carbon emissions for power plants, especially coal power.

Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan is joining a multi-state lawsuit to fight Trump administration efforts to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, a creation of the Obama administration that seeks to restrict emissions from power plants.

The Environmental Protection Agency is looking to replace the old CPP with the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, which seeks to loosen emission standards.

In the lawsuit, Vermont is joining 21 other states, the District of Columbia and six cities.

“Today’s action is the latest step in our fight for the Clean Power Plan,” Donovan said in a press release. “The climate crisis is real. It is already impacting Vermont with increasingly severe storms and rising temperatures that threaten our maple and snow sport industries.

“The Clean Power Plan plays a key role in protecting our environment. My office has been fighting for the Clean Power Plan — and our environment — for years and we’re not going to stop.”

The release claims that the CPP would reduce climate change pollution by the equivalent of 160 million cars per year. It also states that the Trump plan only puts emission restrictions on coal-power plants, whereas the CPP included gas-fired plants as well. It adds that the CPP allows utilities to shift energy generation over to natural gas, wind and solar in order to meet compliance, whereas this new plan is less flexible.

“The Vermont Attorney General has been active in defending the Clean Power Plan for years and was a member of the coalitions that intervened in defense of the Clean Power Plan and the companion rule for new power plants against legal challenges in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2015,” it states.

This is not the first time the Obama energy policy was involved in litigation. During Obama’s time in office, 24 states sued to prevent the CPP from being enacted and the Supreme Court acted to temporarily halt its implementation.

Obama long ago made his intentions clear when it comes to energy policy and the fate of coal power plants in an interview with the San Fransisco Chronical in 2008.

“So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted,” he said.

According to a report, the Obama era regulations would have done serious damage to the coal industry, which remains one of the cheaper forms of energy.

“Obama’s rule was expected to force more coal power plants and mines to close down, costing thousands of jobs in the process,” the report states. “Nearly 40 percent of coal-fired power capacity has been retired or announced plans to retired as a result of market forces, technological change and an increase in regulations, according to some experts.”

The article continues that if the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the case and if they rule in favor of the Trump administration, it could set the precedent that the Clean Air Act does not permit governments to enact sweeping restrictions on energy production.

A report by the Institute for Energy Research suggests that new coal powerplant technology filters out most dangerous emissions.

“According to the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), a new pulverized coal plant (operating at lower, ‘subcritical’ temperatures and pressures) reduces the emission of NOx [nitrogen oxide] by 83 percent, SO2 [sulfur dioxide] by 98 percent and PM [particulate matter] by 99.8 percent, as compared with a similar plant having no pollution controls. Undoubtedly, air quality will continue to improve in the future because of improved technology.”

William Short, an energy consultant based in New York City, said, “the [CPP] would put great burdens on fossil generation and very heavy burdens on coal.”

He added that any struggle over the fate of coal power is almost a moot point because at the moment natural gas is much cheaper and outputs half the emissions of coal.

“Nothing in the near-term is going to change that conclusion,” he told True North in an email. “With $2/MMBTU [British thermal unit] gas at the burner tip, you generate electricity at $14/MWh [megawatt hour]. For an oil-fired plant, the oil would have to cost about $8/bbl [barrel] at the burner tip and, for a coal-fired plant, the coal at the burner tip would have to cost $31/ton to match the cost of natural gas-fired power. Today, oil is closer to $50-60/bbl and coal delivered to New England is probably closer to $90-100/ton.”

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR

6 thoughts on “Vermont attorney general joins lawsuit to try and save Obama’s clean power plan

  1. Follow the money. Government, including the Vermont Attorney General’s office needs it to operate. The more money they get whether through law suits or fees or whatever the more secure they are in their future. They will always find a way to justify the means to their ends, and their ends are not necessarily in the best interest of the people that they “serve”. However it is always in “their” best interest.

  2. The more I see and read about Donovan’s actions, the more I hate him and everything he stands for.

  3. This article uses fuel cost, when it should use the over cost of a plant and plant efficiency to determine the actual MWh cost per type of fuel. Its a pretty stupid analysis, and much like saying a gas powered car is cheaper because the fuel is only $2 a gal., and diesel is $3, without regard for the fact that you can go twice as far on a gallon of diesel.

  4. ” Donovan said in a press release. “The climate crisis is real. It is already impacting Vermont with increasingly severe storms and rising temperatures that threaten our maple and snow sport industries.”

    Is it the job of the attorney general to manage crisis or litigate Vermont law?

    When someone thinks something is real I question why if it is not obvious to me. In over seven decades of living here I can see no eminent crisis beyond the normal ebb and flow of our weather patterns.

    Where is the crisis?

    • Using a government position to tinker with the free market system by manipulating and limiting individual property rights based on group think that alters behavior would seem to be the real crisis!

  5. Apparently our AG’s job is more about fighting Trump than helping Vermonters. I contacted his office about a child who was sexually abused by her father with no action being taken against him. Apparently that was of no interest since I never received a reply.

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