Supreme Court Puts the Clean Power Plan on Pause

High Court Agrees to Emergency Stay; D.C. Circuit Court to Hear Arguments on the Merits in Three Months

February 9, 2016
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396,

In a highly unusual decision, the Supreme Court today granted an emergency stay of the Clean Power Plan – the historic measure to reduce climate pollution and protect public health.

The Court overruled a unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which denied motions to stay the Clean Power Plan on January 21 following two months of briefing and weeks of careful review. The Supreme Court’s decision means the plan will be “paused” while the D.C Circuit court reviews the merits of lawsuits challenging it. Oral arguments will be held before the D.C. Circuit on June 2.

“Today’s court decision is unfortunate but does not reflect a decision on the merits. The D.C. Circuit court will carry out a careful and expeditious review of the merits over the next few months. The Clean Power Plan has a firm anchor in our nation’s clean air laws and a strong scientific record, and we look forward to presenting our case on the merits in the courts,” said Vickie Patton, general counsel for Environmental Defense Fund, which is a party to the case. “EDF believes the merits phase of the case can be argued, and decided, quickly – while Americans in red and blue states alike work together to protect our families and communities from the clear and present danger of climate change.”

The Clean Power Plan establishes America’s first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants – the single largest source of such pollution. By 2030, when it’s fully implemented, the Clean Power Plan will reduce carbon pollution from the power sector to 32 percent below 2005 levels. It is also expected to save 3,600 lives and prevent 90,000 childhood asthma attacks each year, while saving average American families almost $85 on annual energy bills.

Opponents launched multiple legal attacks against the Clean Power Plan, starting before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finished writing it. After the D.C. Circuit Court reviewed and denied motions to stay the Clean Power Plan, and set an expedited schedule to hear lawsuits on its merits, opponents took the highly unusual step of asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the lower court’s decision and grant an emergency stay. Today the Supreme Court granted those requests by a 5-to-4 vote.

A broad and diverse coalition, including EDF, will be defending the Clean Power Plan when the D.C. Circuit Court turns to the merits. That coalition includes attorneys general of 18 states and seven large cities, ten major power companies, a host of clean energy associations, and public health and environmental organizations. Additional parties – including the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, 14 additional municipalities including Houston and Salt Lake City, and two former Republican Administrators of EPA – have moved to join the litigation as amici in support of EPA.

You can find more about the Clean Power Plan, including all legal briefs in the cases about it, on EDF’s website.

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