Obama's Clean Power Plan handed setback by US Supreme Court

Obama’s Clean Power Plan handed setback by US Supreme Court

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President Obama’s landmark regulation to cut emissions from stationary polluters — the Clean Power Plan — was just issued a stay by US Supreme Court.

Justices voted along ideological lines.
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Greentech Media

Justices voted along ideological lines.
Justices voted along ideological lines.

President Obama’s landmark regulation to cut emissions from stationary polluters — the Clean Power Plan — was just issued a stay by the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision casts doubt on whether the rule will ultimately be upheld.

The 5-4 vote (PDF) shows the justices voting along ideological lineswith Justice Ginsburg, Justice Breyer, Justice Sotomayor and Justice Kagan stating they would deny the application.

It’s a black eye for the Obama administration, which finalized historic carbon regulations on new and existing power plants last August. The rule seeks to cut pollution from the power sector by 32 percent by 2030 and spur investments in clean energy.

A number of states, utilities and fossil fuel companies had requested to block the CPP, claiming assertions of irreparable harm, even in these early planning stages. Texas and West Virginia led 23 other states in challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule the day it was published in the Federal Register. Opponents say the EPA overstepped its authority in implementing the regulation, which would force states to transition their energy portfolios away from coal power.

“Make no mistake — this is a great victory for West Virginia,” said Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. “We are thrilled that the Supreme Court realized the rule’s immediate impact and froze its implementation, protecting workers and saving countless dollars as our fight against its legality continues.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council asked the U.S. Supreme Court to deny the stay requested by opposing parties, claiming, “The request for a stay has no basis in fact and should be denied, and that’s exactly what the federal appellate court in Washington did two weeks ago. Ultimately, we believe we will prevail in this case on its legal merits, which is that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to issue first-ever restrictions on carbon pollution from power plants, the primary driver of dangerous climate change,” as reported by Generation Hub.

Law360 notes, “These opposing parties, however, have told the court that states right now are having to write implementation plans under the Clean Power Plan and that power companies are having to make decisions right now about whether to retire coal-fired power plants, or at least whether to make new investments in them over the near term since those plants might need to be retired for Clean Power Plan compliance.”

William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, which represents the state regulators charged with implementing the carbon rule, said that efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will not stop because of the Supreme Court decision.

“Almost every state in the country has been working tirelessly over the past two years in preparing Clean Power Plan strategies,” he said. “We fully expect that many of these states will continue their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under their own legal authorities.”

Opponents brought the motion to stay to the Supreme Court after a federal appeals court rejected a bid to delay the rule on January 21. The stay is expected to last through much of the year, until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit makes a final ruling on the plan. A decision in that case is expected in late 2016 or early 2017.

As Obama’s final term winds down, his legacy on clean energy and climate is very much in the courts.

Source: Greentech Media. Reproduced with permission.

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