BRADENTON, Fla. — Florida's second-most populous county and one of its tiniest cities bucked the official state position on carbon emissions by joining a coalition supporting the federal government's Clean Power Plan.
Broward County and South Miami along with 18 states, other cities, and the District of Columbia filed a motion on Wednesday seeking to intervene in litigation challenging the Environmental Protection Agency plan.
The coalition said it supports the plan, though challengers claim it will dramatically drive up electric costs.
"There is an urgent need for local governments and states to unite in defense of the Clean Power Plan and the emissions reductions it will achieve," said Broward County Mayor Tim Ryan. "Sea level rise and severe storms are already causing frequent and extensive flooding along Florida's coast, with severe impacts on our residents, infrastructure, and economy."
Ryan said that he and a majority of commissioners voted to join the litigation in support of the Environmental Protection Agency's CPP rule because Broward residents — who live on the state's southeastern coast — are already feeling the effects of climate change and sea level rise.
However, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi — on behalf of the Sunshine state — joined 23 other states in filing suit on Oct. 23 in the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia challenging the plan that seeks to dial back U.S. carbon emissions by 32% by 2030, from 2005 levels.
Carbon emissions are seen as a major contributor of global warming and sea level rise.
Bondi said the federal rule lays out an unrealistic time frame to drastically decrease carbon emissions from electricity production, and would result in dramatically higher electricity bills by requiring the use of "costly and unproven technologies."
Rating agency analysts have said the rules could lead to higher costs for some public utilities, and credit ratings ultimately could be impacted.
"Standard & Poor's Ratings Services believes the rules could create operational and financial burdens for many public power and electric cooperative utilities, particularly those that rely extensively on coal generation to meet customers' electricity needs," S&P analyst David Bodek said in an Oct. 20 report. "However, we do not view the rules as an imminent threat to the sector's credit quality."
The final rule released in October gives utilities until 2022 to develop operational responses to the new regulations, and most public power providers have autonomous ratemaking authority to recover costs that will preserve their credit quality, according to S&P.
"If CPP compliance costs are very onerous and rate-setting bodies — whether residing within the utility or vested in outside agencies — can't set rates at levels that can simultaneously be affordable for customers and preserve utility credit measures, we could downgrade utilities whose credit measures materially weaken," Bodek said.
In Wednesday's motion to intervene in the CPP litigation, supporters of the plan said they have a compelling interest in defending it "as a means to achieve their goal of preventing and mitigating climate change harms in their states and municipalities."
Supporters also said that they have taken significant steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and defending the Clean Plan would further their goals on a nationwide basis.
In addition to Broward and South Miami, others seeking to intervene are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, the District of Columbia, and the cities of New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Boulder, Colo.