CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey says he will be challenging a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule he says will force power plants fueled by coal or natural gas to capture smokestack emissions or shut down.

“This new rule would strip the states of important discretion while using technologies that don’t work in the real world — so it sets up the plants to fail,” Morrisey said the new EPA rule issued April 25. “These plants, which are an essential part of our power grid, will be unable to meet the standards dictated by the EPA, leaving them with no other option but to cease operations.”

The rule was among four targeting coal and natural gas plants the EPA said would provide “regulatory certainty” to the power industry and encourage them to make investments to transition “to a clean energy economy.” The measures include requirements to reduce toxic wastewater pollutants from coal-fired plants and to safely manage coal ash in unlined storage ponds. EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the rules will reduce pollution and improve public health while supporting the reliable, long-term supply of electricity that America needs.

Morrisey vowed to fight back.

“We will be challenging this rule,” he said. “The U.S. Supreme Court has placed significant limits on what the EPA can do — we plan on ensuring that those limits are upheld, and we expect that we will once again prevail in court against this out-of-control agency.

“This tactic by the EPA is unacceptable, and this rule flies in the face of the rule of law. We are confident this new rule is not going to be upheld, and it just seems designed to scare more coal-fired power plants into retirement — the goal of the Biden administration.”

U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said she plans to introduce a Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval regarding the new EPA rules.

“With the latest iteration of the illegal Clean Power Plan 2.0 announced today, President Biden has inexplicably doubled down on his plans to shut down the backbone of America’s electric grid through unachievable regulatory mandates," Capito said. "Electricity demand is set to skyrocket thanks in part to the EPA’s own electric vehicles mandate, and unfortunately, Americans are already paying higher utility bills under President Biden."

Capito said the rules impose a "one-two punch of burdensome emissions requirements" on existing coal-fired power plants and newly constructed gas-fired power plants, and Regan already has announced plans to issue additional regulations covering existing natural gas power plants after November.

"Despite all this, the administration has chosen to press ahead with its unrealistic climate agenda that threatens access to affordable, reliable energy for households and employers across the country," Capito said.

The rules are a key part of the Biden administration’s pledge to eliminate carbon pollution from the electricity sector by 2035 and from the entire economy by 2050. The EPA also tightened rules to reduce wastewater pollution from coal-fired power plants and prevent harm from toxic pits of coal ash, a waste byproduct of burning coal.

The new rules originally included steps to cut emissions from existing natural gas plants, but that was delayed until at least next year.

“Making matters worse, the administration packaged this rule with several other rules aimed at destroying traditional energy providers,” Morrisey said. “We’re reviewing those rules as well, and we’ll be working with state and industry partners to implement the best strategy for fighting back against Biden’s anti-energy agenda.”

The power plant rule marks the first time the federal government has restricted carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. The rule also would require future electric plants fueled by coal or gas to control up to 90 percent of their carbon pollution.

Coal provided 16 percent of U.S. electricity last year. That’s down from 45 percent in 2010. Natural gas now provides about 43 percent of electricity in America, with the rest from nuclear energy and renewables.

Environmental groups praised the new EPA rules.

“Today’s announcement by the Biden–Harris administration marks a huge win for the country — and especially communities whose residents have suffered and fought the impacts of power plant pollution for decades,” Appalachian Voices Executive Director Tom Cormons said. “We applaud the administration for finalizing these rules that require companies to reduce and clean up the pollution they have pushed on people and the planet for far too long.

“This should spur monopoly utilities to rethink their plans to spend billions of their customers’ dollars on polluting gas-fired power plants and instead lean into clean and renewable energy investments that save people money while creating good jobs.”

Another official with the group said the rules will bring new clean energy jobs to Appalachia.

“We know these rules mean an enormous transition for so many fossil-fuel powered communities, but with the incentives included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, we are more than ready to continue our work to help power this transition,” Director of Government Affairs and Strategy Chelsea Barnes said.

The president of a trade group that advocates for the coal energy industry called the set of rules “extreme and unlawful overreach that endangers America’s supply of dependable and affordable electricity.”

“The new Clean Power Plan is the same kind of overreach that caused the U.S. Supreme Court to reject EPA’s first Clean Power Plan in 2022,” America’s Power President and CEO Michelle Bloodworth said. “Impartial experts and officials have warned that policies and regulations, especially the new Clean Power Plan, that are designed to force the premature closure of coal plants could trigger an electric reliability crisis.

“Regrettably, EPA has chosen to ignore these warnings. In addition, EPA has finalized other rules today that increase the prospects of a reliability crisis.”

She said electricity demand is exploding because of AI data centers, electric vehicles and new manufacturing facilities.

“This trend is a welcome indicator of innovation and a growing economy that will strengthen America’s position in the world,” Bloodworth said. “At the same time, it means that we need more sources of dependable and affordable electricity such as coal-fired power plants, not fewer. Already, utilities have announced plans to shut down more than 60,000 megawatts of coal-fired generation over the next five years. These retiring power plants could power either 600 data centers or more than 60 million homes.

“New EPA rules will accelerate coal retirements. Taken together, EPA’s new Clean Power Plan and the other rules represent a clear and present danger to our electricity supply and our economy.”