SE Texas Record

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Texas, W.Va. attorneys general underscore legal limits of Obama administration on climate accord

By David Yates | Nov 24, 2015

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey have called on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to fully acknowledge the legal limits faced by President Obama’s environmental agenda as the secretary negotiates at the upcoming United Nations summit on climate change, also known as Paris 2015 and COP21.

According to a Nov. 24 press release, Morrisey and Paxton, two of the leaders in the states’ lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency, outlined their concerns in a Nov. 23 letter addressed to Secretary Kerry and copied to other officials, including President Obama, congressional leaders and leading foreign negotiators from Britain, China, France, Germany, India and Russia, as well as others representing the United Nations and European Union.

“There are significant legal limits on (President Obama’s) ability either to carry out the promises he has made in advance of Paris 2015 or to enforce any agreement arising out of the summit,” the letter states

The attorneys general urge Secretary Kerry to acknowledge the centerpiece of President Obama’s domestic strategy to reduce carbon emissions – his so-called Clean Power Plan – is unlikely to survive judicial review in the face of lawsuits brought by more than half of the states.

The attorneys general describe arguments against the Power Plan as strong and numerous.

Their letter specifically cites U.S. Supreme Court case law in calling the EPA’s reliance upon Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act as mistaken. It also contends the EPA cannot force states to reorder their energy policy and argues the plan would violate the 10th Amendment.

Aside from the Power Plan, Attorneys General Morrisey and Paxton insist any agreement arising from Paris 2015 will be legally non-binding unless it is ratified with a two-thirds vote of the U.S. Senate.

The attorneys general believe any attempt by President Obama to ratify a Paris 2015 accord through executive agreement would be clearly unlawful. They believe Senate ratification preserves some power for the states.

“These serious legal questions are of great importance to the States,” Attorneys General Morrisey and Paxton write. “We expect our federal representatives to respect that system of dual sovereignty both here at home and in negotiations abroad.”

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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) U.S. Supreme Court United Nations

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