Supreme Court issues stay of EPA’s Clean Power Plan implementation

The US Supreme Court told the Environmental Protection Agency in a 5-4 vote to delay implementation of its Clean Power Plan until a lawsuit 27 states filed to challenge it can be heard. The Feb. 9 order stays EPA’s implementation while US Circuit Appeals Court for the District of Columbia hears petitions for review by the states.

The high court’s unprecedented move to stop regulatory activity before it is expected to hear the case later in 2016 suggested that justices could give the regulation, which aims to curb carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, a strong examination.

“Make no mistake—this is a great victory for West Virginia,” Atty. Gen. Patrick Morrisey (R) said in Charleston. “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.”

Texas Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton (R), who filed the suit with Morrisey on Oct. 23, 2015 when EPA issued the regulation, separately said in Austin, “This is a major victory for Americans who feared the loss of their jobs, not to mention anyone concerned over the potential of skyrocketing electric bills and the overall quality of our electric grid.”

Attorneys general from 25 other states eventually joined the action. The group petitioned the Supreme Court for a stay on Jan. 26. Paxton said the DC Circuit Court will hear oral arguments on the merits of the states’ case on June 2. A final ruling from that court might not come for months, and without the stay the administration’s plan could have caused the destruction of untold numbers of jobs and the weakening of the nation’s electric grid, he said.

Oil and gas trade associations have expressed concern that the CPP’s requirements may prevent states from meeting its goals by not allowing them to use more natural gas to replace coal-fired electric power generation.

Other business groups applauded the Supreme Court’s action. “This is a remarkable and unprecedented decision, as the legal hurdles that have to be jumped over to get the court to agree to stay a new regulation are many and high, observed Stephen Eule, Vice-Pres for Climate and Technology at the US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy.

“Suffice it to say the court wouldn’t have taken such a step unless it thought the petitioners—which include 27 states and state officials, a coalition of 16 trade groups led by the US Chamber, and coalitions of the electric utility and mining sectors—have a sound legal argument that EPA has overreached its authority and that they could reasonably be expected to prevail on the merits,” he said.

“Manufacturers’ leadership in the courts helped secure this important victory,” National Association of Manufacturers Pres. Jay Timmons separately added. “The granting of our motion to delay implementation while the courts debate the legality of the Clean Power Plan not only shows the strengths of the merits of our case, but also saves manufacturers billions of dollars in unjustly incurred regulatory costs.”

Contact Nick Snow at

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