EPA’s Pruitt Challenges the Legal Authority of Regulations Included in Obama’s Clean Power Plan


In late October, Environmental Protection Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a proposal to repeal former President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

According to the EPA’s Pruitt, the Clean Power Plan, which was aimed at combating climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions from electrical power generation, is a source of unnecessary regulatory burdens and a product of the Obama administration exceeding its legal authority.  The Trump administration and Pruitt have made clear their intentions to dismantle the regulations established by the Obama administration.

Thus far, the courts have determined the Trump administration’s deregulatory efforts to be in violation of settled law. Until the finalized regulations that comprise the Clean Power Plan are undone through a new full rulemaking process, the EPA is bound by the existing regulations.  William W. Buzbee a professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center and contributing writer to the Hill, contends that Mr. Pruitt’s proposed repeal falls short of the strict legal standards upheld by the courts.

Pruitt’s repeal proposal fails to provide a “reasoned explanation for disregarding facts and circumstances that underlay” the Clean Power Plan. It’s the responsibility of Mr. Pruitt and the EPA to engage with the established reasoning and scientific conclusions that comprise the Clean Power Plan and offer explanations as to how they are deficient or inconsistent. Second, insofar as the EPA is obligated to offer a sufficient replacement policy, the repeal proposal faces another legal deficiency by virtue of not having a replacement plan.

Pruitt, the EPA, and the Trump administration certainly have a substantial legal burden ahead of them, but I suspect their efforts to repeal the Clean Power Plan and promote deregulation will not wane.