Late on February 9, the Supreme Court dealt a major blow, albeit temporary, to President Barack Obama’s anti-global warming initiative that was intended to be a hallmark of his second term. In a 5-4 decision, the high court ruled to put Environmental Protection Agency regulations on whole so that an appeals court can hear arguments from the more than two dozen states opposed to the initiative. The EPA regulations were intended to control greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants.
Climate change skeptic and journalist Marc Morano said of the ruling, “This is a major victory for U.S. sovereignty, energy freedom, climate science and a blow to economic central planning.” Likewise, energy advocates and other climate change skeptics argue that the rules would represent a major and costly shift in the economy by requiring energy companies and consumers to plug into alternative sources such as wind and solar power and away from cheap fossil fuels. Most of the electric power generated in the U.S. comes from coal, oil or natural gas.
“This wasn’t a rule so much as it was a reimagining of the entire electricity system of the United States,” said Michael McKenna, a GOP energy strategist. It’s “the most far-reaching and burdensome rule EPA has ever forced onto the states,” 26 states led by West Virginia and Texas argued in court papers.
The delay will continue until June, when it may go before an appeals court. If the states and energy advocates lose in that court, the hold on the regulations would last until they sought Supreme Court review. So far, the EPA will not be able to enforce the Sept. 6 deadline for states to either submit their emission reduction plans or request a two-year extension. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, whose coal-mining state was one of those arguing against the plan. In a statement, Morrisey said, “We are thrilled that the Supreme Court realized the rule’s immediate impact and froze its implementation, protecting workers and saving countless dollars as our fight against its legality continues.”
The four justices on the Supreme Court who were appointed by Democrats dissented from the order. There are Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
The EPA regulation known as the Clean Power Plan would bring about strict limits on carbon emissions produced by existing power plants. The plan is tougher than previous restrictions on existing plants because it requires costly retrofitting. Without retrofitting, the plants must close. States were to submit plans for meeting their emissions goals to the EPA later this year, with final plans to be submitted in 2018. The hope was to bring emissions down by 30 percent by 2030.
Obama could not make good on election promises to make major changes to the environment. He failed to win over key Democrats in 2009 and 2010. And when the Republicans regained the House in 2011, Obama decided to try executive action. This was another example of Obama’s skirting of Congressional authority.
“Climate change is the most significant environmental challenge of our day, and it is already affecting national public health, welfare and the environment,” urged Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. in a brief to the Supreme Court. Obama administration lawyers accused states and businesses of asking for an “extraordinary and unprecedented” delay of the entire regulation before any judge had ruled on it.
“A stay that delays all of the rule’s deadlines would postpone reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and thus contribute to the problem of global climate change even if the rule is ultimately sustained,” Solicitor General Verrilli argued.
The challengers, which include Southern Co., Peabody Energy Corp. (the largest U.S. coal-miner), and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, argued that companies and states alike already were having to prepare for the rule to take effect. Southern and other utilities told the justices that, without Supreme Court intervention, companies would have to “begin the complex and lengthy process of shutting down or curtailing generation from existing plants and shifting that generation to new sources.”
Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) has faced opposition among Democrats in Kentucky and Missouri. is facing some opposition from his own party in Kentucky and Missouri. Matt Vespa at Townhall.com wrote in October 2015, “The ambitious green energy plan aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. It’s a regulatory nightmare that will hurt millions of Americans, especially those in rural areas and living on fixed-incomes. It will impact Americans’ electrical costs, and possibly gut millions of jobs within the black and Hispanic communities.”
Opponents note that states that did not vote in favor of Obama’s re-election are disproportionately impacted. In Missouri, the Clean Power Plan was projected to cost the state $6 billion by 2030, which is why Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Koster has planned to join other states suing to block these regulations. Also Missouri utilities, including Ameren Missouri, urged Koster to sign on with those stated that filed against the regulations. Koster has sued the EPA in the past over their regulations, including the controversial Waters of the U.S.” rule that is opposed by the agricultural industry.