Supreme Court puts Obama’s Clean Power Plan on hold

Michael Biesecker
Associated Press

Washington – — A divided Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to halt enforcement of President Barack Obama’s sweeping plan to address climate change until after legal challenges are resolved.

The surprising move is a blow to the administration and a victory for the coalition of 27 mostly Republican-led states, including Michigan, and industry opponents that call the regulations “an unprecedented power grab.”

By temporarily freezing the rule the high court’s order signals that opponents have made a strong argument against the plan. A federal appeals court last month refused to put it on hold.

The court’s four liberal justices said they would have denied the request.

The plan aims to stave off the worst predicted impacts of climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions at existing power plants by about one-third by 2030.

Appellate arguments are set to begin June 2.

The compliance period starts in 2022, but states must submit their plans to the Environmental Protection Administration by September or seek an extension.

Many states opposing the plan depend on economic activity tied to such fossil fuels as coal, oil and gas. They argued that power plants will have to spend billions of dollars to begin complying with a rule that may end up being overturned.

Implementation of the rules is considered essential to the United States meeting emissions-reduction targets in a global climate agreement signed in Paris last month. The Obama administration and environmental groups also say the plan will spur new clean-energy jobs.

To convince the high court to temporarily halt the plan, opponents had to convince the justices that there was a “fair prospect” the court would strike down the rule. The court also had to consider whether denying a stay would cause irreparable harm to the states and utility companies affected.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey called the high court’s action a “great victory.”

Dissenting from the court’s action were the four Democratic appointees: Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

The EPA rule, known as the Clean Power Plan, requires states and utilities to use less coal and more wind power, solar power or natural gas. The program is designed to bring about cuts in carbon emissions from power plants of 32 percent by 2030.

The Obama administration said power plants wouldn’t face any deadlines to begin cutting emissions until 2022 at the earliest.

Bloomberg News contributed.