On Tuesday February 9th, in a split 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court of the United States temporarily halted any enforcement of the Clean Power Plan, a new EPA rule that came into effect 12/22/15. The rule would require a 32 percent nationwide cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. The rule gives states until 2022 to be in compliance with the new emissions restrictions, requiring each state to submit a plan to comply with the rule by 2018. This rule is considered by many to be essential for the US to meet their commitments made during the COP21 summit in late 2015 where they agreed to reduce overall emissions 26-28 percent by 2025 from 2005 levels.
A coalition of 27 states and industry groups are opposing the restrictions. They argue that the new restrictions will result in an increase in energy costs of 12-17 percent and will eliminate many jobs in the energy industry by forcing coal power plants to shut down. The Obama administration and the EPA predict that the cost of compliance will be outweighed by healthcare savings benefits by as much as 7 times.
This rule is unique in that it would impose restrictions on existing power plants for the first time. All prior carbon dioxide limits have affected new plants only.
The Court’s order would block the rules from taking effect while the legal fight plays out in the appeals court and any future appeal to the Supreme Court. Proponents of the rule are confident that this is just a temporary setback, and that the rule will withstand scrutiny in the courts. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is set to begin hearing oral arguments in June. Should the case wind up in the Supreme Court, a final decision may not be reached until sometime in 2017.