US Supreme Court delays implementation of Clean Power Plan

Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Tuesday (Feb. 9) to delay implementation of the Clean Power Plan until legal challenges to the regulation are completed, the White House claims that it will still be able to meet greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions commitments agreed to at COP21 in Paris last December. Many however worry that this decision undercuts progress made in the Paris Agreement, as the world’s second biggest emitter (at least temporarily) loses its primary instrument to achieve GHG reductions.

The Clean Power Plan, announced by President Obama and the EPA on August 3, 2015, is designed to lower carbon emissions from U.S. power plants by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030 by use of flexible and achievable standards.

Twenty-nine stated and dozens of corporations and industry groups decided to challenge the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, arguing that it is “the most far-reaching and burdensome rule EPA has ever forced onto the states.” Following the Supreme Court’s 5-4 vote, an emergency order was issued to the EPA to put the plan on hold. This is the first time that the Supreme Court has granted a request to halt a regulation before review by a federal appeals court.

The White House released a statement on Tuesday lamenting the decision:

We disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision to stay the Clean Power Plan while litigation proceeds.  The Clean Power Plan is based on a strong legal and technical foundation, gives States the time and flexibility they need to develop tailored, cost-effective plans to reduce their emissions, and will deliver better air quality, improved public health, clean energy investment and jobs across the country, and major progress in our efforts to confront the risks posed by climate change. We remain confident that we will prevail on the merits. Even while the litigation proceeds, EPA has indicated it will work with states that choose to continue plan development and will prepare the tools those states will need.  At the same time, the Administration will continue to take aggressive steps to make forward progress to reduce carbon emissions.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hear the case and make a decision this summer.


(Image: US Supreme Court. Photo credit: Rob Crawley/Flickr)