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Monday, May 20, 2024 | Back issues
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SCOTUS Blocks Obama’s Clean-Power Plan

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Supreme Court blocked federal regulations combatting climate change Tuesday night by a sharply divided vote, putting a wrench in President Barack Obama's anti-pollution efforts.

Against the backdrop of Tuesday's stay, Obama unveiled a $4.1 trillion budget this morning that includes measures to begin implementing the international climate-change deal he struck in Paris.

The White House has not yet issued a statement on Tuesday's stay of the Clean Power Plan, which requires states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions nationwide by 32 percent by 2030, relative to 2005 levels.

When the Environmental Protection Agency published the power-plants guidelines at Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act this past October, two dozen states led by West Virginia and Texas took the matter to court.

The D.C. Circuit had already tossed pre-emptive objections lobbed before the Clean Power Plan became official, and the 2015 challenge seemed doomed to meet the same fate.

Though the D.C. Circuit sided with the government again in late January, about a month after the plan took effect, the Supreme Court interrupted its recess to hand the states a stay on Tuesday night.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey called the stay a victory for workers and businesses across the country.

"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," Morrisey said in a statement.

There is no opinion accompanying the paragraph-long order, which the court reprinted for five separate challenges. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan voted against the stay.

The D.C. Circuit will consider the merits of the challenge at a hearing on June 2.

Tuesday's stay blocks enforcement of the Clean Power Plan until after the D.C. Circuit makes a decision. The stay would continue meanwhile if the unsuccessful parties then petition the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari.

"Without the stay the administration's plan would have caused even more destruction of untold numbers of jobs, skyrocketing electricity bills and the weakening of the nation's electric grid," West Virginia's Morrisey said.

Most of the state challengers are Republican-led and Southern. Unions and utility companies are among private organizations supporting the states.

The coalition argues that the Clean Power Plan clearly exceeds the EPA's authority to regulate utilities, and would have a "devastating" economic impact on them.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel took to Twitter to applaud Tuesday's stay.

"Thank you for leading the challenge against @BarackObama's unlawful Clean Power Plan, @morriseywv!" Schimel wrote. "Huge victory today."

Morrisey has described the rule as "a major threat to anyone who powers up a computer, or turns on a light."

He blames the regulation for a dramatic downturn in the mining industry in his state, a downturn that saw Patriot Coal, a major coal producer in the state, lay off 2,000 workers in December.

Morrisey said defeating the new rule, which pertains primarily to newly constructed plants, will also effectively beat back a requirement to retrofit existing coal-fired plants as a means of reducing emissions.

"That's why so many states have joined us," the AG said.

In a statement Tuesday evening, the Sierra Club's chief climate counsel Joanne Spalding called the Supreme Court's stay "a pause."

"We are disappointed in the Supreme Court's decision today to delay the job-creating, life-saving Clean Power Plan," Spalding said. "However, the court's decision does not overturn the historic policy or decide its legal merits. This is a pause, and we are confident the Clean Power Plan and all of its benefits ultimately will be implemented across the nation.

"In fact, the Clean Power Plan follows trends that are already occurring in the electric sector and we are already dramatically reducing carbon pollution as we transition to clean, renewable energy. Large majorities of Americans support those efforts and the Clean Power Plan.

"The Supreme Court has already upheld the EPA's authority to limit carbon pollution from power plants under the Clean Air Act and we believe that the Clean Power Plan is a valid exercise of that authority. We fully expect the Clean Power Plan to ultimately prevail in the courts."

California Gov. Jerry Brown - whose state did not join in the fight - called the justices who voted to stay the plan "tone-deaf."

"As the world gets hotter and closer to irreversible climate change, these justices appear tone-deaf as they fiddle with procedural niceties," Brown said in a statement. "This arbitrary roadblock does incalculable damage and undermines America's climate leadership. But make no mistake, this won't stop California from continuing to do its part under the Clean Power Plan."

West Virginia Attorney General Morrisey and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton led the challenge, joined by Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming, along with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, Mississippi Public Service Commission, North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.

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