February 10, 2016

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A divided US Supreme Court yesterday halted implementation of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. We have previously blogged about the Clean Power Plan on numerous other occasions—so you may know all you wish to know about it for now—but it represents the federal government’s most aggressive action yet to combat climate change.

Under the Plan, EPA proposes to regulate carbon dioxide emissions at power plants pursuant to its authority under the Clean Air Act. A predictable coalition including industry, utilities, and red states are challenging the Plan, contending that EPA has exceeded its scope of authority under the Act. By a 5-4 vote, the US Supreme Court has now agreed that Plan implementation should be put on hold while the merits of the challenge are addressed in the lower courts. The Court’s more conservative wing, including Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Kennedy, Scalia, and Thomas, made up the 5-vote majority.

The decision is unusual in that typically regulations will go into effect while a battle over their legality transpires, leading many to speculate that the Plan may not fare well if it were ultimately to reach the Supreme Court, as is now thought likely.