Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


EPA announces new rules governing existing power plants

OLYMPIA—Attorney General Bob Ferguson applauded new rules announced by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy today setting strong emission limits on existing fossil-fuel power plants to reduce pollution in the U.S.

“Existing fossil-fuel power plants are the single largest source of climate change pollution,” said Ferguson. “These new federal rules will help limit pollution to protect the environment and improve the health of our communities.”

A history of legal action

In 2006, Washington state sued the EPA along with a group of 10 other states, the District of Columbia and the City of New York. They argued that the federal Clean Air Act required the EPA to set performance standards for greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts v. EPA that the EPA has legal authority to regulate greenhouse gases as ‘air pollutants’ under the Clean Air Act. The court also ruled that the EPA must determine whether these gases cause or contribute to air pollution that may endanger public health or welfare.

Following Massachusetts v. EPA, the EPA agreed in a settlement with the states and other parties that it would take action to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

The EPA subsequently published a proposed rule to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants by establishing performance standards for carbon dioxide emissions.

Ferguson and 12 other state attorneys general sent a letter to the federal Environmental Protection Agency in 2013, urging strong new rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Pollution must be reduced to curb detrimental effects of climate change

In their comments to the EPA, attorneys general said significant reductions in pollution must occur to prevent increase in the frequency and magnitude of adverse health, safety and economic impacts. These impacts include:

  • Extreme weather, including rain and snow storms, floods and droughts;
  • Higher smog levels, increasing the rate of asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis;
  • More heat-related deaths and illnesses;
  • Coastal land loss due to rising sea levels;
  • Threats to ecosystems;
  • Disappearance of plant and animal species, a rise of insect-borne illnesses, and destructive fungi and pests;
  • Threats to food production, agriculture and forest productivity; and
  • Threats to energy, transportation and water resource infrastructure.                                                                                    

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The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is working hard to protect consumers and seniors against fraud, keep our communities safe, protect our environment and stand up for our veterans. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.

•    Janelle Guthrie, Director of Communications, (360) 586-0725
•    Alison Dempsey-Hall, Deputy Communications Director, (206) 641-1335