In a 5-4 vote last week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on President Obama’s Clean Power Plan at the behest of 26 states. The states are joined by utilities and other companies that are challenging a Federal mandate to cut U.S. carbon emissions by one-third by 2030.
The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality is already pulling the breaks on its plan to be in compliance with the first Environmental Protection Agency deadline set for September 2016.
“It’s an unfunded mandate,” Keith Guille, a spokesman for the Wyoming DEQ said Friday. “DEQ’s primary concerns are about EPA’s legal authority to issue the rule and our ability to enforce it.”
“We’ve already expended roughly 2,370 man-hours trying to get the state into compliance with the plan by September,” Guille continued. “We’ll still be working on it, but we’re going to be devoting our personnel and resources back to the regulations we can actually enforce.”
While the mandate will probably supercede the September deadline, the future of coal remains uncertain.
With the death of Justice Antonin Scalia on Sunday, the Supreme Court is now tied between liberal and conservative justices. All four dissenting votes were from liberal justices. Meanwhile, the Republican controlled Senate has vowed to not approve any appointments made by Obama to fill Scalia’s spot.
Added to the concern of floundering coal prices, coal is falling out of favor with utilities which are switching to cheaper natural gas and alternative sources.
“The litigation in the Supreme Court hasn’t altered our plans,” David Eskelsen, a spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power, said Monday. Eskelsen added that Rocky Mountain Power opted out of joining the other public utilities which are challenging the EPA regulation.
“If you look from 2001 to 2012, you’ll notice that most of the utilities are moving to natural gas and wind power,” Eskelsen said. “We’re mostly worried about what the most cost effective measures are.”
The only impact Eskelsen could for-see the ruling having for utilities in Converse County was the future of the Dave Johnston Plant near Glenrock.
“It’s still being analyzed, but we have a plan to phase out unit three by the end of 2027,” Eskelsen said. “Each of the plant’s units has a date set for the end of its regulatory depreciation date, and we plan on operating them to the end of that service-life.”