The EPA is moving full steam ahead with their plans to clamp down on coal production in the name of reducing carbon emissions, regardless of how it impacts American energy independence or the costs which will be passed on to consumers. (And “full steam ahead” is probably an apt bit of gallows humor in this case, since we may be back to running on wood burning steam engines soon if the EPA has their way.) But that might change now that the D.C. circuit court has heard arguments from 26 state Attorneys General who are seeking to preemptively stop the regulations from going into effect. Their argument, which comes at a rather unusual stage of the normal process for rules implementation, is a compelling one and seeks to prevent entirely predictable harm to consumers and the grid.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey penned an op-ed earlier this month explaining why he was moving forward with this request.

On April 16, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hear arguments on two separate but related lawsuits filed by numerous states and energy companies in the wake of last June’s proposed rule. The lawsuits contend that the rule and EPA’s compliance threats are illegal.

This case is vitally important to the nation. If the EPA’s proposed rule is permitted to go forward, it will cause great harm to the states and their citizens. The agency’s threats to finalize the plan this summer already have had a dampening effect on states, the energy industry, and its employees.

Uncertainty is rife. Utility companies are currently deciding whether to invest in new technologies to make plants compliant, or to scrap certain power plants altogether. Regardless of what utilities ultimately decide, taxpayers and consumers will foot the bill, as EPA’s regulations create an overreliance on other sources of energy to meet base-load power demand.

The reason this request is out of the ordinary – and why it was such a significant moment for the court to even hear the case – is that it is traditionally almost impossible to challenge a federal rule before it’s in place. Usually you have to wait for bad policy to actually begin screwing things up before you can go to court because you have to be able to show damages from the regulation and find someone with standing to bring the challenge. In this case, however, the science (well.. just the math, really) makes the case for them. If you put energy providers in such an untenable position that they will have no choice but to either shut down or face ruinous losses, jobs will go away and the energy available on the already strained American grid will decrease. This isn’t long division, folks.

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity points out how extraordinary it is for the courts to agree to hear a challenge to a ruling which hasn’t gone into effect yet.

“The mere fact that the court has agreed to hear arguments challenging a regulation before it is finalized is monumental. We are seeing history in the making today as industry and Attorneys General come together to protect consumers and businesses from regulations that threaten the future of America’s economy,” said Mike Duncan, president and CEO of ACCCE. “The EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan will wreak havoc on American consumers and businesses through skyrocketing electricity costs, job losses and a weakened grid. This administration is usurping the traditional lawmaking authority of the states and gambling with our nation’s economic future, all in an attempt to piece together a highly politicized presidential climate legacy.”

So how many jobs are we talking about? Probably more than you think, and certainly more than the EPA will ever admit.

More than 90 coal plants could be closed with jobs that support mining and power stations also being eradicated by U.S. rules to cut carbon emissions. A report by the conservative American Action Forum research group argues that the federal government has not fully considered the implications of these new rules…

According to the report by the American Action Forum however, nearly 300 000 jobs could be lost including 80 000 in the energy sector and the rest in secondary jobs that support those workers, such as in manufacturing and services.

These regulations are mired in questions which go far beyond whether or not they would actually achieve any productive results. More than two dozen states have weighed in, saying that the EPA doesn’t even have the legal authority to regulate CO2 emissions in this fashion. One Harvard Law School professor (!) has even spoken up, saying, “After studying the only legal basis offered for the EPA’s proposed rule, I concluded that the agency is asserting executive power far beyond its lawful authority.”

When progressives lose Harvard, they’ve nearly lost the war.

Executive overreach is a hallmark of the Obama administration as the President attempts to reshape the world through the power of the pen and the phone. But it can only go so far before the other two branches attempt to grab hold of the rudder. (Hopefully, anyway.) Congress has already gotten involved, but now the judicial branch needs to exert their authority as well. This case may be the first solid step in that direction.