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Utah slams brakes on EPA climate rules

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Utah Gov. Gary Herbert stops all work on complying with the Clean Power Plan. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Utah's Republican governor has taken the lead in ordering his state to stop all work on meeting the compliance deadlines for the Environmental Protection Agency's climate change plan, after the Supreme Court halted the regulations earlier in February.

"In the wake of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to stay implementation of the Clean Power Plan, I have suspended formal state efforts to comply with the rule," Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday afternoon in a little advertised statement. "This includes postponing scheduled stakeholder meetings to develop Utah's initial submittal to the EPA until the rule's future becomes more clear."

Utah is among the 30 states challenging the EPA's Clean Power Plan in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court ruled Feb. 9 to stay the plan until all court decisions have been made final. The appeals court will hear oral arguments in the case in early June.

Nevertheless, other states say they will continue to work on complying with the plan. EPA senior officials have said they will meet with any states that wish to voluntarily continue working on the regulations though it is on hold by the high court.

"It is important to utilize limited state resources efficiently, and it does not make sense to dedicate significant staff time or taxpayer dollars to comply with a rule that may not survive judicial scrutiny," the governor said. "The state remains committed to an energy future that is affordable, reliable and cleaner."

Conservative groups in Washington who have been urging states to cease all work on complying with the power plan applauded the governor's action Friday.

"By stopping all efforts to comply with EPA's regulation, Gov. Herbert is taking a crucial step toward protecting Utah families from higher energy costs," said Thomas Pyle, head of the conservative American Energy Alliance, which is leading national campaign for all state governors to stop work on the EPA plan.

"With the rule on hold, the governor clearly recognizes that it is a waste of time and taxpayer-funded resources to move forward with any efforts to comply," Pyle said.

The Clean Power Plan is the centerpiece of the president's climate change agenda. It directs states to lower their greenhouse gas emissions by a third by 2030, which groups suing the agency say is an impossible goal that will raise energy prices and raise the potential for rolling blackouts.

"States should focus their efforts on promoting affordable and reliable energy for their citizens," said Pyle, "not on complying with a legally suspect regulation that will make energy more expensive."