WASHINGTON (AP) — 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.”
By issuing the temporary freeze, a 5-4 majority of the justices signaled that opponents made strong arguments against the rules. The high court’s four liberal justices said they would have denied the request for delay.
The administration’s plan aims to stave off the worst predicted impacts of climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions at existing power plants by about one-third by 2030.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the administration’s plan is based on a strong legal and technical foundation, and gives the states time to develop cost-effective plans to reduce emissions. He also said the administration will continue to “take aggressive steps to make forward progress to reduce carbon emissions.”
A federal appeals court in Washington last month refused to put the plan on hold. That lower court is not likely to issue a ruling on the legality of the plan until months after it hears oral arguments begin on June 2.
Any decision will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court, meaning resolution of the legal fight is not likely to happen until after Obama leaves office.
Compliance with the new rules isn’t required until 2022, but states must submit their plans to the Environmental Protection Administration by September or seek an extension.
Many states opposing the plan depend on economic activity tied to such fossil fuels as coal, oil and gas. They argued that the plan oversteps federal authority to restrict carbon emissions, and that electricity providers would have to spend billions of dollars to begin complying with a rule that might end up being overturned.
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia, whose coal-dependent state is helping lead the legal fight, hailed the court’s decision.
“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,” Morrisey said.