The Environmental Protection Authority of Hawaii has agreed to a $1.8 billion lawsuit filed by Australia, over a decision to ban a fossil fuel-burning power plant.
The Hawaii Court of Appeals issued an injunction on December 5, 2015, ordering the State of Hawaii to comply with the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.
The case is being brought by the Pacific Institute, which says the plant’s emissions will “contribute to climate change.”
The state agency had argued that the plant in Waikiki, Hawaii, will contribute to the climate by burning fossil fuels, and thus must be allowed to operate.
The company is based in Queensland, Australia.
The EPA’s attorneys, which include environmental lawyer William McBride, said the injunction prevents the agency from enforcing its Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.
“The EPA believes the EPA’s actions would have a chilling effect on the agency’s ability to address climate change, particularly on its enforcement of its Clean Power Plan,” McBride said.
“The EPA will be required to comply in all respects with its Clean Energy Standards.
The EPA will also have to continue to take actions to protect the health and well-being of the public.”
McBride said the case will be heard in January.
The lawsuit was filed in January by the Hawaii Environmental Defense Coalition (HEDC), an environmental organization based in Honolulu.
The group is challenging the Hawaii EPA’s action on the grounds that the EPA has not yet demonstrated that the state’s climate mitigation plan is adequate.
The court found in favor of the EPA in a June 24 decision.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to uphold the injunction, but they do not expect the case to be resolved before the end of the year.
The plaintiffs say the EPA cannot “substantially” burden Hawaii’s environmental protection efforts.
McBride and other attorneys for the Hawaiian EPA have argued that a Clean Energy Standard could allow the agency to enforce its Clean Water and Clean Air Acts.
The Clean Power plan, which is a requirement under the Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, requires the state to cut emissions from its electricity grid by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
The HEDC also argued that Hawaii’s Clean Energy Plan could be subject to federal regulation, because the state has no specific regulatory authority to protect its environment from pollution.