By Erik Olson

The Billings Chamber of Commerce announced Friday it's joining a group of trade associations opposed to the federal Clean Power Plan, which seeks to cut carbon emissions from energy producers.

The Billings chamber will be listed on an amicus brief (a legal opinion of a party with interest in the case but who has not been solicited to weigh in) along with 166 state and local chambers from 40 states.

Chamber officials say the Environmental Protection Agency's plan would be costly to coal-rich Montana, because it will force power companies to raise rates to offset the costs of cutting carbon emissions, which will result in a loss of jobs in the coal industry.

"This plan has far-reaching ramifications that go far beyond the intent and scope of the federal government. The proposed rule has potential to impact a significant number of our 1,200 member businesses, both directly and indirectly," said John Brewer, president of the Billings chamber, in a written statement.

Montana was one of 27 states that sued to stop the Obama administration plan. Under the proposal, Montana would be required to cut carbon emission by 47 percent. Opponents feared this would mean the closure of older units at the coal-fired plant in Colstrip.

On Feb. 9, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on the Clean Power Plan until a lower court rules on its legality. In response, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock suspended meetings of a subcommittee created to determine Montana's response to the proposed regulations.

EPA and Obama administration officials have said the plan is an effort to curb emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

(c)2016 the Billings Gazette (Billings, Mont.)