Funding for the final piece of President Obama’s climate legacy was thrown into a tailspin late yesterday when the Supreme Court put the brakes on federal power plant regulations. The move by the court’s five conservatives to block U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan introduces new uncertainties to an already-unlikely $4.1 trillion request that reaches beyond Obama’s remaining 11 months in office to a hypothetical future where Congress supports and funds climate change action.
The Supreme Court’s decision to freeze the Obama administration’s signature carbon rule will likely shape the political debate on climate change on Capitol Hill and in the upcoming presidential elections, lawmakers yesterday predicted. On the one hand, House Republicans may not be as gung-ho about going after the Obama administration’s climate agenda. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), a vocal critic of U.S. EPA, yesterday said that he felt comfortable putting the carbon program on the backburner.
Supporters of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan are pointing to political motives behind the Supreme Court’s decision to block the rule. After the justices yesterday decided 5-4 to block U.S. EPA’s top effort to limit power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions, several disappointed agency supporters today compared the court’s move to its decision in the Bush v. Gore case. That divided opinion in late 2000 paved the way for George W. Bush to become president.
The Supreme Court’s surprise decision Tuesday to halt the carrying out of President Obama’s climate change regulation could weaken or even imperil the international global warming accord reached with great ceremony in Paris less than two months ago, climate diplomats say. The Paris Agreement, the first accord to commit every country to combat climate change, had as a cornerstone Mr. Obama’s assurance that the United States would enact strong, legally sound policies to significantly cut carbon emissions. The United States is the largest historical greenhouse gas polluter, although its annual emissions have been overtaken by China’s.
Senators are huddling with their respective caucuses this to try to sort out a path for salvaging the chamber’s bipartisan energy package, after overnight negotiations on aid for Flint, Mich., appear to have failed to clear the chief hurdle to finishing the bill. Aides from both parties said this morning it was unclear what’s next for the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s package (S. 2012), which remains stalled over Democratic demands for assistance to help Flint residents cope with their lead-contaminated drinking water.
Renewable energy advocates say long-distance transmission will tap the wind and solar potential of the Great Plains and Sun Belt the way pipelines opened up once-inaccessible oil fields in Alaska and Siberia. These projects are seen as essential to helping states comply with President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which requires them to reduce emissions from power plants, and will help the U.S. meet its goals of getting 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. “It doesn’t take a genius to say that the challenge is on the transmission side,” said Michael Skelly, president of Houston-based Clean Line. “That would enable a lot of renewable energy projects.”
The administration of President Barack Obama is vowing to press ahead with efforts to curtail greenhouse gas emissions after a divided Supreme Court put his signature plan to address climate change on hold until after legal challenges are resolved. Tuesday’s surprising move by the court is a blow to Obama and a victory for the coalition of 27 mostly Republican-led states and industry opponents, who call the regulations “an unprecedented power grab.”
Today’s decision marks a big victory for critics of President Obama’s signature climate change rule. By granting the unusual request — which the administration called “extraordinary and unprecedented” — the high court has signaled that the regulation may not withstand its scrutiny.
The 5-to-4 vote, with the court’s four liberal members dissenting, was unprecedented — the Supreme Court had never before granted a request to halt a regulation before review by a federal appeals court.
It’s unclear now whether the rule — which the Obama administration leaned heavily on in recent international climate negotiations in Paris — will ever be revived. The high court blocked it at least until a federal appeals court weighs its legality and potentially until the Supreme Court decides whether to uphold the rule, which could conceivably take years.