Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly


Sharma, Deepa


The Clean Power Plan requires states to meet specific carbon emissions targets based on the amount of pollution emitted from in-state power plants. The rule marks the most aggressive action taken by the United States to combat climate change. The rule, however, is currently facing a litany of legal challenges. In addition to the questionable legal authority under which the regulation was promulgated, the regulation may be constitutionally problematic. This paper examines whether the rule violates the Equal Sovereignty Principle as articulated in the Supreme Court's blockbuster ruling in Shelby County v. Holder because it exempts Alaska and Hawaii without sufficient justification, and because of its disproportionate burden on coal states. This paper argues that the Equal Sovereignty Principle indeed applies to the Clean Power Plan, and that the rule violates the doctrine of Equal Sovereignty because it exempts Alaska and Hawaii. The paper also argues that the principle's application in this context may actually result in wider application of the Clean Power Rule and further environmentalists' objectives of ensuring that the burden of mitigating climate change is shared among the states.