In a surprise procedural decision yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court put the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan on pause while a lower court reviews it.
The Court did not weigh in on the merits of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s plan, and didn’t explain its reasoning, so we don’t know the legal basis for this unusual decision.
But we do know that the court has repeatedly upheld the EPA’s authority – in fact, its responsibility – to limit climate pollution under the Clean Air Act.
So we remain confident that the Clean Power Plan rests on a solid legal foundation, as states, power companies, legal experts and air pollution control officials nationwide have already recognized.
Clinging to the past is bad policy
A lower court, the D.C. Court of Appeals, will continue its review of the Clean Power Plan, with a hearing scheduled for June 2.
Because of the Supreme Court’s action yesterday, the EPA can’t require states to move forward with their planning until the issue is settled. But the reality is that many states and power companies will continue to plan for the clean energy future they all know is coming.
In fact, it would be irresponsible to delay the transition away from dirty fossil fuels with the expectation that the Supreme Court will reverse its consistent endorsement of the EPA’s duty to limit emissions. Meanwhile, the need for the EPA to exercise its recognized authority to protect our nation from dangerous climate change becomes ever more clear.
Delay is not what citizens expect from their leaders. And companies that cling to 19th-century fuels and 20th-century business plans aren’t doing their stockholders any good.
Yesterday’s ruling was a setback because this is the time we need to accelerate the transformation to clean energy, rather than create uncertainty.
It’s telling, therefore, that several states – including Virginia, Colorado, Minnesota and California – have already said they will stay the course.
The Clean Power Plan, which helped inspire China’s recent actions on climate change and the 190-nation climate agreement in Paris, should move forward because it has the facts, law and science on its side.