Supreme Court blocks Obama climate change rules
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday dealt President Barack Obama a blow by moving to temporarily block his administration’s rules to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
Reacting to a lawsuit from 29 states, as well as the energy industry, the court blocked the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan from going forward while the rule is challenged in court.
The four liberal justices on the court — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elana Kagan — dissented from the order.
Environmentalists did not expect the high court to step in, particularly since the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hold oral arguments in June and the states would not have had to come into compliance until 2018. That a divided Supreme Court stepped in at this juncture to block the program after a lower court declined to do so sends a signal that at least five justices are concerned with some aspect of the plan.
The ruling comes as Obama continues to push action on global warming as a key part of his legacy, and effort that reached its peak with the deal at the U.N.-led talks on climate change in Paris in December.
The EPA rule would require states to meet specific carbon emission reduction standards based on their individual energy consumption. It also includes an incentive program for states to get a head start on meeting standards on early deployment of renewable energy and low-income energy efficiency.
“Power plants are the single biggest source of harmful carbon pollution that contributes to climate change,” Obama said in a video released last August. “Until now, there have been no federal limits to the amount of carbon pollution plants dump in the air.”
Congressional Republicans have fought the rules, voting to block the EPA limits on the same day Obama spoke at the Paris talks. And the administration’s actions on climate change have been regularly criticized on the campaign trail by Republican candidates.
“Great news for Wyoming & American energy. Republicans will do what we can to keep this rule permanently blocked,” Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, tweeted.
Karen Harned, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center, celebrated the Supreme Court’s action.
“What the court said today is that states cannot be forced to comply with a regulation that it may ultimately decide is unconstitutional. This is a temporary but important victory for small businesses, which were facing substantially higher energy costs.”
David Doniger, director of the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said he is “confident the courts will ultimately uphold the Clean Power Plan on its merits. The electricity sector has embarked on an unstoppable shift from its high-pollution, dirty-fueled past to a safer, cleaner-powered future, and the stay cannot reverse that trend. Nor can it dampen the overwhelming public support for action on climate change and clean energy.”