The Obama administration’s efforts to create a global reduction in emissions hit a big snag on Feb. 9, when the U.S. Supreme Court put a halt on the Clean Power Plan.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s most impactful environmental regulation would have required power plants across the country to cut their polluting emissions by a third by 2030. Power plants in every state would have to make their first reductions in emissions by 2022, The New York Times reports.
Electric power plants and coal mining industries would have until 2030 to cut emissions by whichever method they see fit. If no action is taken, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would step in and make the cuts.
The EPA issued the Clean Power Plan in 2015.
In 29 states, energy corporations and utilities have lobbied to have the regulation thrown out. Washington D.C. Court of Appeals refused to halt the plan in January 2016. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled 5-4 to putting the plan on hold.
Now state governments that want to ignore the Clean Power Plan are not obligated to make any plans to cut down on their emissions. West Virginia attorney general Patrick Morrisey, whose state led the charge against the regulation, was jubilant.
“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,” said Morrisey.
The Supreme Court’s liberal wing opposed the stay, but the overall ruling indicates that the highest court in the land has skepticism about the regulation.
“There’s a lot of people who are celebrating,” said energy company lawyer Jeff Holmstead. “It sends a pretty strong signal that ultimately it’s pretty likely to be invalidated.”
This is a devastating blow to Obama’s environmental agenda. The most optimistic timetable for the Clean Power Plan to resume would be in 2017, after the president has left office. The regulation was also a key piece of the president’s strategy to convince foreign leaders to commit to his global climate plan in December 2015.
"We're disappointed the rule has been stayed, but you can't stay climate change and you can't stay climate action,” stated EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison, according to Politico. “Millions of people are demanding we confront the risks posed by climate change. And we will do just that.”
“We remain confident that we will prevail on the merits,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “The administration will continue to take aggressive steps to make forward progress to reduce carbon emissions.”
Following the Supreme Court decision, the Clean Power Plan is vulnerable, meaning that it would be easier for a Republican president to dismantle one of Obama’s most ambitious plans.
This means that the plan will be added to the pile of key issues during the 2016 presidential election, The Dallas Morning News noted.