D.C. Circuit suspends litigation on climate policy — again

Source: Amanda Reilly, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A federal court granted an additional suspension of litigation over President Obama’s signature climate change policy.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an order holding the litigation in abeyance for 60 days. The court directed U.S. EPA to file status reports every 30 days.

The full court issued the order, but Chief Judge Merrick Garland did not participate in the decision.

The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan required states to craft plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. More than two dozen states and dozens of industry entities challenged the rule in the D.C. Circuit.

In April, the court granted a 60-day stay of the proceedings and asked parties to weigh in on the future of the litigation (Greenwire, April 28). Since then, the court has not taken any action on the case.

The Justice Department has argued for pausing the lawsuits indefinitely because it would conserve judicial resources and maintain the status quo — including the Supreme Court’s February 2016 stay of the rule. The Trump administration, meanwhile, sent a draft rollback to the White House for interagency review in June.

Supporters of the Clean Power Plan, on the other hand, have asked the D.C. Circuit to remand the litigation back to EPA.

They’ve argued that holding the cases in long-term abeyance would convert the Supreme Court’s temporary stay into a “long-term suspension of the Clean Power Plan” and allow EPA to reconsider the rule without first going through the proper steps for rescinding a regulation (E&E News PM, May 15).

Last week, environmentalists urged the court to rule on the case, rather than continue to hold it in abeyance (E&E News PM, Aug. 3).

In today’s order, Democratic-appointed Judges David Tatel and Patricia Millett issued a concurring opinion that stated the Supreme Court’s stay has had the effect of “relieving EPA of its obligation” to comply with its statutory duty to address greenhouse gases.

But the judges said that all issues regarding the stay should be addressed by the Supreme Court.

Click here to read the court’s order.