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States threaten lawsuit to force EPA to issue power plant rules

By Valerie Volcovici

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Ten states have threatened to sue the Environmental Protection Agency, which missed an April 13 deadline to finalize rules on new power plant emissions, unless it issues guidelines promptly.

New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a statement on Wednesday criticizing the agency for failing to complete its New Source Performance Standards to curb greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants despite President Barack Obama's pledge to combat climate change.

"Today's notice makes clear that if the EPA does not promptly issue these rules, we will take legal action to hold the agency to its commitment," he wrote in a letter to the agency.

The attorneys general of nine other states, the District of Columbia and New York City joined Schneiderman in his threat to sue and gave the EPA 60 days to respond.

The EPA failed to meet an April 13 deadline to finalize the rule, which would have required any new power plant being built to emit no more than 1,000 lbs of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour, the rate of an efficient natural gas plant.

Most analysts said the standard would effectively rule out the construction of new coal power plants unless they installed carbon capture and storage technology, which has not yet been developed on a commercial scale.

Some lawmakers from coal-reliant states, such as West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, asked the Obama administration last month to issue separate carbon standards for new coal-fired plants and natural gas plants to enable coal plants to continue to be built.

The EPA offered no comment about when the rules would be finalized but said the agency was still wading through over 2.7 million comments on the rule.

States have used the threat of legal action to force EPA to issue overdue rules in the past.

Last year, Schneiderman led a seven-state effort to force the EPA to issue rules to address methane emissions from natural gas and oil production.

Schneiderman said in his letter Wednesday that the states were willing to consider other alternatives to avoid legal action.

(Reporting By Valerie Volcovici)

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