US Supreme Court blocks EPA’s carbon emissions reduction plan

The US Supreme Court on Tuesday barred President Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) from taking effect until legal challenges against the legislation are solved.

In a tight vote of 5-4, the court decided to put the plan on hold after receiving a request from 27 US States, led by Texas and West Virginia, and several businesses to block the CPP.

The regulation is intended to lower US power plant CO2 emissions to 32% below 2005 levels by 2030 and push the country to take up renewable energy – including biomass and biofuels – and natural gas to replace coal-based power.

In a statement the White House said it disagrees with the court’s decision but has full faith that the plan will prevail on its merits.

“Even while the litigation proceeds, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has indicated it will work with states that choose to continue plan development and will prepare the tools those states will need,” said the White House, adding that it will continue to take “aggressive steps” towards decarbonisation.

But the Supreme Court’s decision may hinder long-term establishment of the CPP – the US’ main tool for reaching the goals of last December’s Paris Climate Accord – as it may bite into the plan and strike it down even if a lower court would find the plan legal.

The Conservative-majority Supreme Court has a history of curbing the Obama administration’s climate plans, as just last June it ruled 5-4 against the government’s attempts to regulate mercury and other toxic aerial emissions.

‘Historic victory over EPA’

The belligerent states, many of whom are economically dependent on fossil fuels, welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision with jubilation.

In an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey of coal producer West Virginia called the court action a “historic and unprecedented” victory over the EPA

“Without Supreme Court intervention, West Virginia and other states will suffer irreparable harm as job creators and state agencies spend untold resources to comply with a rule that is likely to be struck down as illegal," Morrisey said in January.

According to Morrisey, the legal proceedings could last until 2017, meaning that whoever is to replace President Obama next January will get to decide whether the CPP will be dropped altogether.

Following the Supreme Court decision, the CPP will now be sent to the Court of Appeal for the D.C. Circuit, which will hear oral arguments in June and decide on the regulations’ legality.

The DC Appeals Court struck down a similar stay request in January 2016.

This article was written by Ilari Kauppila, deputy editor at Bioenergy Insight

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