Supreme Court blocks Obama’s signature climate rule

Source: Robin Bravender, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Supreme Court today in a 5-4 vote agreed to freeze U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan, dealing a major blow to the Obama administration.

The order comes in response to a request from a broad array of states, utilities and other industry groups that asked the high court to put the rule on hold while legal challenges play out in a lower court.

Today’s decision marks a big victory for critics of President Obama’s signature climate change rule.

By granting the unusual request — which the administration called “extraordinary and unprecedented” — the high court has signaled that the regulation may not withstand its scrutiny.

A majority of justices voted to grant the stay request. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan voted against it.

To get a stay from the Supreme Court, petitioners normally must show there’s a “reasonable probability” that four justices will agree to hear the case, that there’s a “fair prospect” a majority of the court will find that a lower court’s decision was erroneous and that “irreparable harm” will result from the denial of a stay.

Although litigation against the Clean Power Plan is now pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia Circuit, observers widely expect the Supreme Court to decide the dispute.

The Clean Power Plan — the Obama administration’s signature climate change rule — aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Opponents argue it’ll be devastating to the power sector and will force electricity rates up, while supporters insist it’s a necessary step toward tackling climate change.

The rule is one of the most heavily litigated environmental regulations of all time. Critics have filed a combined 39 lawsuits from a total of 157 parties challenging the rule in the D.C. Circuit.

An additional 18 states as well as other industries and interest groups are backing the administration in court.

The Supreme Court decision reverses a previous move by the D.C. Circuit refusing to block the regulation.

The lower court — which is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case in June — said last month that challengers had “not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending court review.”

Although the high court has frozen the regulation for now, the lawsuits will proceed in the D.C. Circuit.

Click here to read the court’s order.