Energy & Environment

Court suspends case over Obama climate rule

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A federal appeals court is pausing its case over former President Barack Obama’s landmark climate change regulation, notching a major victory for the Trump administration.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Friday halted the case while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) works through the process of repealing the Clean Power Plan.

The decision means that the federal court will not publish its ruling on whether or not the regulation, the main pillar of Obama’s climate change agenda, is legal.

{mosads}The court heard oral arguments in September in the challenge by conservative states, fossil fuel businesses and others who argue that the Clean Air Act and the Constitution prohibit the EPA from writing the regulation.

The Trump administration also opposes the rule. President Trump signed an executive order last month to start the process of repealing the Clean Power Plan, and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt led the legal challenge against it in his previous job as Oklahoma’s attorney general.

Shortly after Trump signed his order, the Justice Department asked the court to hold off on the case.

The EPA and other opponents of the rule applauded the court’s action.

“Last year, the Supreme Court granted a stay on the Clean Power Plan, so we always knew there were serious legal problems with this initiative from the Obama administration and we welcome this news from the D.C. Circuit,” said EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R), the lead litigant in the case, also cheered the order.

“The court recognized the landscape has changed and that a decision on the merits is not appropriate at this time,” he said in a statement.

The supporters of the Clean Power Plan said the order will not stop them from defending the rule against Trump.

“Today’s temporary pause in the litigation does not relieve EPA of its legal obligation to limit carbon pollution from its largest source: fossil-fueled power plants,” said Eric Schneiderman (D), New York’s attorney general. “Nor does it change the reality of the dire harm climate change is causing to communities around New York and across the country.”

Most of the court’s 10 judges who heard the case in September seemed to lean toward the Obama administration’s position that the regulation at issue is proper and can be enforced.

The rule would have ordered a 32 percent cut in the power sector’s carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, with targets individually assigned to each state. It has been on hold since February 2016 because of a Supreme Court order.

The Trump administration is working to repeal the Clean Power Plan. The process requires a proposal and an opportunity for public input, and could take a year or more. At that point, environmentalists, Democratic-led states and others are likely to sue the administration to keep the regulation in place.

The D.C. Circuit asked the Trump administration to file updates every 30 days on its process of formally reviewing the rule.

The court also put on hold a separate case over a related EPA rule setting limits on emissions from newly built coal and natural gas power plants.

Similarly, the Obama administration wrote that rule, and the Trump administration wants to repeal it.

This story was updated at 12:54 p.m.

Tags Barack Obama Clean Power Plan Climate change Environmental Protection Agency
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