Missouri bills would halt state’s work on Clean Power Plan

While Missouri hasn’t made an official announcement on whether it will continue working on the Clean Power Plan, state lawmakers are ready to make that call.

A pair of bills moving through the state legislature could postpone drafting of a state compliance plan for a year – or even indefinitely, though at least one lawmaker says that is not the intent.

SB 858, which was passed favorably out of the Senate commerce committee and now awaits a vote on the floor, postpones the development of a state implementation until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the merits of the Clean Power Plan. That decision is expected no earlier than the spring of 2017.

A second bill, HB 2543, appears to go further. It states that, “No activity by the state or any agency or department of the state related to the Clean Power Plan shall resume until litigation regarding the implementation of the Clean Power Plan has been fully adjudicated.” It has been heard, but not yet voted on, in committee.

That seems to mean not just the case now before a federal circuit court, but any other lawsuit that could surface, according to Mark Walter, deputy director of Renew Missouri, a clean-energy advocacy organization. He testified against the bill earlier this week before a legislative committee.

Noting that the Clean Air Act is still being challenged decades after its passage, Walter said that the Missouri House bill, if passed, “would effectively stop the Department of Natural Resources from ever completing a state plan.”

Rep. Rocky Miller, who chairs the House energy and environment committee that is studying the bill, said that the intent is to postpone state work only until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the matter.

“We’ll change it before it leaves my committee, so it only stops work by the DNR during the pendency of the stay,” he said. Miller expects the committee to vote on the bill next week.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on Feb. 9 suspending the Clean Power Plan, about 18 states have declared they would cease working on state plans, according to Alyia Haq, deputy director for the Clean Power Plan Initiative for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Many states in the in the Midwest are among them, including Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, and North Dakota. South Dakota cancelled its plans before it held its first public hearing. Arkansas, Missouri’s neighbor to the south, officially stopped work on the plan this week.

Another 10 states are still evaluating their options, according to Haq.

Iowa and Minnesota, by contrast, are continuing to develop their compliance plans.

Bills similar to those now before the Missouri General Assembly “have been popping up all over the country,” Haq said. “It was happening before the (U.S. Supreme Court) stay. Americans for Prosperity was really pushing the strategy. This has come up at (American Legislative Exchange Council) meetings. This is definitely a polluter-funded push to figure out how to wrap states up in bureaucracy and foil the Clean Power Plan at every turn.”

Haq acknowledged that states have the prerogative to stop working on plans, but she warned that they could find themselves short on time if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Clean Power Plan and decides the states must comply.

“We’re really confident they’ll uphold it,” she said. “We expect the court would keep intact the 2022 start date. That’s why it’s critical that, even with the stay, states continue with their planning process. It’s very likely they will have to cut carbon pollution at the same time. I can’t see less time making a better plan.”

States can, of course, opt for a federally-drafted plan, rather than developing their own. Haq predicted that would turn out to be “a huge mistake.

“We think it would still get the job done, but you want to be engaging with the people and utilities in your state to figure out the best way forward. Regardless of what’s in the federal plan, there is no scenario where a state shouldn’t go through their own process.”

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