U.S. Supreme Court freezes EPA’s Clean Power Plan

U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a temporary freeze to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan last night, halting the controversial program that would provide sweeping reform to the United States’ carbon emission standards.

The freeze, decided by a 5-4 majority with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elana Kagan dissenting, is a one-page order that prohibits the CPP from being enforced before it is reviewed by federal appeals courts.

The move is an unprecedented one for the Supreme Court, which had never previously granted a request for a regulatory halt before the lower court review process, and comes just weeks after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied requests for a stay on the plan.

The EPA’s program has been a hot-button issue since it was unveiled by President Barack Obama in August for what many states consider to be unrealistic and potentially economically ruinous measures.

Per the plan, individual states would be tasked with determining their own individual means of helping the nation decrease its overall CO2 emissions by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030.

The plan drew near-immediate scorn from a number of states whose generating fleets and industries rely heavily on fossil fuel consumption and production, with 27 signing a request for an immediate stay that was submitted to the EPA by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in August.

Opponents were able to convince the Supreme Court to issue its temporary halt yesterday by convincing justices there was a “fair prospect” it might ultimately stop the rule regardless, and that denying said stay might cause irreparable harm to states most impacted most adversely.

The lower federal court has expedited its process and will begin hearing oral arguments against the Clean Power Plan on June 2. Any decision could then be appealed to the Supreme Court, however, meaning it could likely be tied up in the legal system well after the Obama administration ends.

The CPP has been widely lauded by members of the hydroelectric power community for its inclusion of hydro as a CO2-reducing agent, though EPA’s the accompanying Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP) has been panned for overlooking hydropower in favor of other renewable generating sources.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for HydroWorld.com.

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