D.C. Circuit Puts Off Ruling on Obama Carbon Restrictions

(CN) – The D.C. Circuit on Friday granted a Trump administration request to postpone ruling on lawsuits challenging Obama-era restrictions on carbon emissions.

The Environmental Protection Agency filed a motion requesting the litigation be put on hold after President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing officials to roll back President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

The plan, part of President Obama’s effort to fulfill the United States’ commitment under the 2015 Paris climate accord, sought to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants by  one-third by 2030.

But Trump, who has often expressed skepticism about climate change and man’s role in it, dismissed the regulations as unnecessary job-killers in already-struggling coal-dependent communities.

In a second order issued Friday, the appeals court in Washington also postponed consideration of a separate case challenging the legality of an EPA rule capping greenhouse gas emissions from new or renovated power plants.

Several states, led by West Virginia and Texas, and more than 100 coal-industry companies and utilities sued to block the Clean Power Plan, calling it an unconstitutional power grab.

In February 2016, a divided Supreme Court agreed to delay the plan’s implementation. Days later, Justice Antonin Scalia died.

Ten judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit later heard arguments in the case and could have issued a ruling at any time. Friday’s order from the court asks the parties whether, after a 60-day postponement, the issue should be sent back to the EPA.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey applauded Friday’s move by the D.C. Circuit, saying the court took “a positive step toward protecting West Virginia coal miners and those who depend upon their success.”

“The court recognized the landscape has changed and that a decision on the merits is not appropriate at this time,” Morrisey said.

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