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US States Sue Over New Clean-Air Rules

FILE - Steam billows from the coal-fired Merrimack Station in Bow, N.H., Jan. 20, 2015.
FILE - Steam billows from the coal-fired Merrimack Station in Bow, N.H., Jan. 20, 2015.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued new regulations on power plants to cut carbon emissions, prompting 24 states to fight the new rules in court.

The EPA published its final version of the new regulations Friday, part of the Obama administration's plan to cut carbon emissions by more than 30 percent by 2030. The new rules require each state to create an effective plan to meet the cuts at power plants.

The states filing lawsuits argue that coal-mining jobs will be lost and electricity will cost more. The Obama administration argues the plan will create new clean-energy jobs and will help curb the worst impacts of climate change.

At issue is whether the EPA can legally issue and enforce the new regulations. The agency argues that its authority comes from a rarely used provision of the Clean Air Act, passed by Congress in 1990. Opponents claim the agency has pushed the limits of the law too far.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who is among the leading challengers, said he was asking the courts to bar the plan from taking effect while the court challenges proceeded. The issue could be potentially taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Obama administration is also calling for increasing the amount of power generated by renewable sources so that it makes up 28 percent of overall U.S. power production.

Power companies already have been converting some of their operations in recent years, increasing their reliance on natural gas, solar and wind. As a result, government data have shown a drop in carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants.

Reducing the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere is a major focus of global efforts to contain a rise in temperatures.

The U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration issued a report in August saying that so far, 2015 has been the warmest year on record.

On November 30, delegations from all over the world will convene in Paris for nearly two weeks of talks about how to reach the goal of keeping temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Scientists warn that global temperature increases could bring extreme weather and rising seas. They want a binding agreement with specific plans for each country to accomplish.