Top Republican says energy plan depends on next president

Senate Republicans

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Supreme Court ruling that delays a key element of President Barack Obama's strategy to fight climate change will likely push a final decision on the issue to the next president, the Senate's Republican leader said Monday as he urged the nation's 50 governors to continue a "wait-and-see" approach on Obama's plan.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell advised the governors to defy Obama's effort to limit carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants by refusing to submit compliance plans to the Environmental Protection Agency.

In a follow-up letter to the governors Monday, McConnell said the Supreme Court's Feb. 9 ruling reinforces his view that states should refuse to act on the power plant proposal until all court challenges are decided.

McConnell's call for defiance echoed a strategy he has adopted for the Senate Republicans to refuse a hearing or votes on Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court.

The high court's action in a case brought by West Virginia and other states means a current delay "will likely extend well beyond this administration, providing a welcome reprieve to states while simultaneously underlining the serious legal and policy concerns I wrote you about last year," McConnell told the governors.

"This is precisely why I suggested a 'wait-and-see' approach" last year, McConnell said.

Obama unveiled a sweeping plan last year to limit greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. The so-called Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of Obama's efforts to fight climate change, would mark the first time the U.S. has ever limited carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. The plan mandates a 32 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions nationwide by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.

McConnell predicted the plan would be overturned by the courts, but told the governors that even if it ultimately is upheld, "the clock would start over and your states would have ample time to formulate and submit a plan."

McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, are among more than 200 Republican lawmakers who are backing a court challenge to the power plant proposal. The lawmakers argue in a brief filed last month with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington that the EPA overstepped its legal authority and defied the will of Congress by regulating carbon dioxide emissions.

More than two dozen mostly Republican-led states, led by West Virginia and Texas, have sued to stop the Clean Power Plan.

The White House and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy have said they are confident the administration will prevail in court.

Arguments in the case are set to begin in June. Regardless of which side prevails, further appeal to the Supreme Court is almost certain, pushing any final decision into next year.

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