Emory Law News Center

New report analyzes how state law could affect Clean Power Plan compliance in Southeastern states
By Emory University School of Law | Emory Law | June 7, 2016

Mindy Goldstein, director of the Turner Clinic and clinical professor of law at Emory Law School:
"Ultimately, our goal is to provide states with information they need to determine the best path forward so they can reduce carbon emissions in a cost-effective way that advances their goals."

The Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory Law School today released a first-of-its-kind report analyzing how various state laws could affect Clean Power Plan compliance in eight Southeastern states—Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Through the analysis, they found that most states’ laws will not significantly reduce regulators’ flexibility to implement a mass-based trading plan.

Under the Clean Power Plan, issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in August 2015, each state is required to submit a state plan that details how it will achieve carbon emission reductions set by EPA. States may reduce emissions in a variety of ways, but one option is through mass-based trading. States that choose mass-based trading can ‘customize’ their plans to advance certain policy objectives—for instance, states could auction emission allowances and use the proceeds to support renewable energy or to reduce the energy bills of low-income residents.

But while many states have expressed interest in trading programs, it was unclear whether or to what extent state regulators would be able to establish such programs under state law. With the publication of this new report, titled Mass-Based Clean Power Plan Compliance: State Law Impacts on Allowance Trading Programs in Eight Southeastern States, the Turner Clinic hopes to answer some of these questions.

“There are lots of ways that states can design mass-based trading plans to meet their specific needs, but these plans have to comply with not only the Clean Power Plan, but state law as well,” said Kate Lee, clinical fellow at the Turner Clinic and principal author of the report. “This report evaluates which design options each state’s air agency may already have the authority to implement under state law, and which could require additional state legislation or even an amendment to the state Constitution.” Lee also noted that, even if the Clean Power Plan is invalidated by the courts, the report could help state regulators and other stakeholders assess whether and how states could implement trading programs on their own.

This report comes on the heels of a 438-page report released by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies which provides model state plans and legislation for states that choose mass-based trading. According to Mindy Goldstein, director of the Turner Clinic and clinical professor of law at Emory Law School, the two reports are complimentary. “Our report discusses whether these Southeastern states will need new legislation to enact trading plans, and the NACAA report gives states specific models of what their legislation or state plans could look like,” Goldstein said. “Ultimately, our goal is to provide states with information they need to determine the best path forward so they can reduce carbon emissions in a cost-effective way that advances their goals.”

About the Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory Law School: The Turner Environmental Law Clinic provides important pro bono legal representation to individuals, community groups, and nonprofit organizations that seek to protect and restore the natural environment for the benefit of the public. Through its work, the clinic offers students an intense, hands-on introduction to environmental law and trains the next generation of environmental attorneys.  More information about the Turner Clinic can be found at: http://law.emory.edu/academics/clinics/turner-environmental-clinic.html

For more information, contact Mindy Goldstein, director of Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory Law School, at 404-727-3432 or mindy.goldstein@emory.edu.

The report can be found here.