Bloomberg Law
Free Newsletter Sign Up
Bloomberg Law
Free Newsletter Sign Up

D.C. Circuit Scraps Clean Power Plan Litigation

Sept. 17, 2019, 8:31 PM

Major unresolved litigation targeting the Obama-era Clean Power Plan is dead.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Sept. 17 dismissed a set of cases that had been pending since 2015 targeting the Environmental Protection Agency rule, which aimed to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector.

The consolidated cases were moot in light of the Trump administration’s replacement regulation, the full court said.

Chief Judge Merrick Garland, a President Bill Clinton nominee, and Judges Gregory Katsas and Neomi Rao, both nominated by President Donald Trump, didn’t participate in the decision.

The EPA’s new Affordable Clean Energy Rule, which took effect Sept. 6, is a more industry-friendly approach to cutting emissions. It directs power plants to make efficiency upgrades, but doesn’t mandate specific reductions.

The high-stakes Clean Power Plan litigation had been pending since 2015, when a large coalition of states, energy companies, industry groups, and other critics challenged the Obama rule in the D.C. Circuit.

Environmental groups and other states sided with the Obama administration to defend the plan.

Case Was Held

A full panel of D.C. Circuit judges heard nearly eight hours of oral argument in 2016, but the court put the case on hold after Trump took office and announced plans to reconsider the regulation.

A new legal showdown over the Trump administration’s replacement rule is shaping up in the same court.

Public health groups, environmental lawyers, and primarily blue states have asked the court to toss the ACE rule and reinstitute the Clean Power Plan.

The case is West Virginia v. EPA, D.C. Cir., No. 15-1363, 9/17/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at; Rob Tricchinelli at