Obama's Clean Power Plan Can Proceed During Legal Fight

  • U.S. appeals court refuses opponents' bid to put plan on hold
  • Initiative seeks to cut nation's reliance on fossil fuels

U.S. President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan will move forward as a federal appeals courts rejected a bid by the power industry and more than two dozen states to put the sweeping initiative designed to stem climate change on hold while they fight to quash it.

The Washington-based appeals court on Thursday issued a two-page order rejecting the opponents’ request to block the plan’s implementation until their challenge is resolved. The court said it would hear arguments June 2. The denial is a blow to utilities and coal producers, along with states where they operate, including Kentucky and the lead state, West Virginia.

“We are disappointed in today’s decision,” West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said in a statement. “The court did not issue a ruling on the merits and we remain confident that our arguments will prevail as the case continues.”

‘Bad Policy’

“The Obama administration’s power plan not only remains bad policy but is also still unlawful,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement. “This ill-advised example of federal overreach will kill jobs, result in higher electric bills and create a significantly less reliable electric grid for all consumers.”

Announced in August and formally enacted in October, the Clean Power Plan is the first-ever national standard for addressing power plant carbon pollution. It aims by 2030 to cut U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to 32 percent below where they were in 2005. The plan requires states and utilities to use less coal and more renewable energy sources including solar and wind power.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the Clean Power Plan is one of the most important steps the U.S. has ever taken to combat climate change.

Historic Standards

“These historic standards will help protect current and future generations,” Melissa Harrison, a spokeswoman for the agency, said in an e-mailed statement. “The plan puts the United States on track to significantly cut carbon pollution from power plants -- our nation’s largest source of carbon pollution.”

Morrisey and others, including Robert Murray, president of the St. Clairsville, Ohio-based coal company Murray Energy Corp., the National Mining Association and the National Federation of Independent Business decried the initiative as a federal power grab. The states opposing the plan sued to quash it. Eighteen states declared their support for the new rules.

The first deadline for compliance is in September when states are required to submit to the EPA at least their draft plans for compliance. Final plans are due two years later.

“This decision is disappointing because it allows the EPA to turn the screws on the states even though the regulation may be ultimately invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court, Karen Harned, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business said in a statement.

The White House said in a statement that it was pleased with the court’s decision and “confident” that the Clean Power Plan would “reduce carbon pollution and deliver better air quality, improved public health and jobs across the country.”

The ruling was also hailed by Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, who said, “today’s court decision means we can continue working -- without delay -- to protect Americans from the clear and present danger of climate change.”

The case is West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, 15-1363, U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia (Washington).

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