What just happened?
On Tuesday the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the Obama administration’s effort to regulate emissions from coal-fired power plants. The vote was 5-to-4, with the court’s four liberal members dissenting, to put a temporary halt on the implementation of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule change.
Why is this significant?
As the New York Times notes, the Supreme Court had never before granted a request to halt a regulation before review by a federal appeals court:
“It’s a stunning development,” Jody Freeman, a Harvard law professor and former environmental legal counsel to the Obama administration, said in an email. She added that “the order certainly indicates a high degree of initial judicial skepticism from five justices on the court,” and that the ruling would raise serious questions from nations that signed on to the landmark Paris climate change pact in December.
In negotiating that deal, which requires every country to enact policies to lower emissions, Mr. Obama pointed to the power plant rule as evidence that the United States would take ambitious action, and that other countries should follow.
What was the EPA rule change?
In June 2014, the EPA issued a proposed rule change on “emission guidelines for states to follow in developing plans to address greenhouse gas emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units.”
Specifically, the EPA is proposing state-specific rate-based goals for carbon-dioxide emissions from energy producers (mostly from 600 coal-fired power plants) and setting guidelines for states to follow in developing plans to achieve new state-specific goals.
Is this is an important change?