WASHINGTON, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- Nearly half of the United States and a coal mining conglomerate filed lawsuits Friday against the federal government -- to challenge a new rule by the Environmental Protection Agency that's at the center of President Barack Obama's plan to fight climate change.
The suits oppose an EPA rule that requires states to begin moving away from fossil fuels, like coal, in favor of sources that emit less carbon, like wind and solar power.
The rule at the center of the litigation is part of the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan, announced in August, which seeks a one-third reduction in the U.S. power industry's carbon emissions over the next 15 years. Under the plan, each state is given specific emissions goals on a case-by-case basis.
In August, Obama called the plan "the single most important step that America has ever made in the fight against global climate change."
The lawsuits, brought by 24 states, claim the EPA exceeded its authority in devising the Clean Power Plan and ask appeals courts to overturn the rule.
Republican Patrick Morrisey, the attorney general of West Virginia -- one of the nation's most active coal mining states -- said he believes the EPA's plan is "the single most onerous and illegal regulations that we have seen coming out of D.C. in a long time."
"The EPA cannot do what it intends to do legally," he added.
However, the White House said Friday that it is confident the EPA's mandate is on solid legal ground.
"I am not surprised that our Republican critics have rushed to the courts to try and prevent something they weren't able to do legislatively," Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said at Friday's briefing. "But we believe that this approach has been shaped by data, shaped by science, and represents a balanced, pragmatic view of how to tackle this.
"Meanwhile, our critics show up on the floor of the United States Senate with snowballs."
Murray Energy, one of the nation's leading coal producers, also filed separate lawsuits Friday -- and congressional Republicans said they would introduce measures on Monday to block the rules.
Those measures will be formal challenges, allowed under the Congressional Review Act, to the EPA plan. Friday was the first day such challenges could be made under the law.
The coalition of states also wants to prevent the EPA from implementing the Clean Power Plan while the matter goes through the appeals courts -- a process that could take years.
The states that are party to the lawsuits are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
The attorneys general of 15 other states and officials in New York City and Washington, D.C., however, said they are planning to intervene in the lawsuit and support the Clean Power Plan, The Hill reported.