DALLAS – President Trump's reversal of President Obama's Clean Power Plan has set up a legal battle between the states.
"We strongly oppose President Trump's executive order that seeks to dismantle the Clean Power Plan," said New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas in a statement signed by leaders in other states announcing a lawsuit to halt Trump's order.
"We won't hesitate to protect those we serve including by aggressively opposing in court President Trump's actions that ignore both the law and the critical importance of confronting the very real threat of climate change," Balderas said.
Joining New Mexico in the lawsuit were states of California, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.
In coal-producing states and others that oppose federal regulation of the fossil fuel industry, the reaction was diametrically the opposite.
"My office has led the fight on all counts because this is something that matters to every West Virginian," said West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. "This is the shot in the arm coal needs to encourage people to place their bets on West Virginia again. My office will continue to do everything in our power to protect the Mountain State from unchecked federal overreach."
In a joint statement, California Gov. Jerry Brown and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that "dismantling the Clean Power Plan and other critical climate programs is profoundly misguided and shockingly ignores basic science. With this move, the Administration will endanger public health, our environment and our economic prosperity."
Other parties to the lawsuit included the District of Columbia, the chief legal officers of the cities of Boulder, Colo., New York City, Philadelphia, Broward County, Fla., and the City of South Miami.
In states like Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, where renewable wind energy is a growing source of power, Republican state leaders praised Trump's action, while public utilities tended to shrug off the order. Former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who sued the Environmental Protection Agency 14 times on behalf of the state's oil and gas industry, is now Trump's EPA administrator.
"We are going to provide regulatory certainty," Pruitt said after Trump's order. "So, the president is setting a new pathway forward that is going to literally make sure that we transform our economy, grow jobs and also protect our environment."
Trump's Energy Independence Executive Order directs agencies responsible for regulating domestic energy production to submit plans to the White House to "identify, and propose measures to revise or rescind, regulatory barriers that impede progress towards energy independence."
The order aims to remove "unnecessary, costly burdens on coal-fired electric utilities, coal miners, and oil and gas producers."
So far, Trump's order has not affected plans to close coal-fired plants.
"Despite actions by the Trump Administration today to roll back the environmental achievements set forth in the Clean Power Plan, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power remains fully committed to eliminating coal from its power supply and increasing its investment in renewable energy, including local solar, and through increased energy efficiency," said LADWP General Manager David H. Wright. Last year, LADWP joined other utilities to defend the Clean Power Plan.
Plans to close the Navajo Generating Station in northeast Arizona by 2019 are still on track. The LADWP and Arizona's Salt River Project agreed in 2013 to sell their stakes in the nation's largest coal-burning power plant. The Hopi and Navajo reservations have sought to keep the plant open to preserve jobs.
Public Service Co. of New Mexico told the Associated Press that it does not expect to change plans to close two units at the San Juan Generating Station by the end of this year or alter the company's efforts to integrate cleaner resources into its portfolio.
Officials at San Antonio's publicly owned CPS Energy said the order would not affect long-term plans to move away from coal in favor of cleaner-burning natural gas and renewables. Before Trump's order, CPS had already made plans to decommission its coal-fired Deely Power Plant by 2018.
Those plans, in development for more than a decade, correspond to longer, macro-economic trends, analysts said.
"Economics, opposed to regulation, is the primary driver of near-term distress for coal plants as they face low power prices due to cheap natural gas and renewable generation entering the market," said Swami Venkataraman, senior vice president at Moody's Investors Service.
"The absence of the CPP (Clean Power Plan) removes a long-term growth driver for renewables," Venkataraman added. "Absent federal mandates and production tax credits, which will be phased out by 2020, the growth of renewables will be driven by declining equipment costs, state-level energy portfolio mandates and new drivers of demand including corporations and community aggregators with sustainability goals."
Earlier this year, the industry Web site Utility Dive surveyed more than 600 electric utility professionals across the United States. The results, coming after Trump's election, indicated that utilities expected to source more power from renewables, distributed resources and natural gas in the coming years, while coal continues to decline.
Under the Clean Power Plan, Texas was expected to account for 18% of the proposed carbon reductions. The Electrical Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the state's power grid, predicted that the CPP would raise electricity prices 16% by 2030 and increase the grid's unreliability.
Despite the growth in natural-gas-fired power plants, coal generated more electricity than natural gas in Texas in November, December and January, according to ERCOT, but natural gas pulled slightly ahead again in February.
Texas' increase in coal-fired power corresponded to an increase in coal production in the third and fourth quarters of 2016, according to the Energy Information Administration. The production gains halted a two-year slide attributed mostly to lower natural gas prices.
While Trump also announced the reopening of federal land to new coal leases, most major coal companies already have leases that will last them a decade, according to a Reuters survey.