A federal court said on Friday it would halt consideration of a major lawsuit over former President Barack Obama’s signature policy aimed at tackling global warming, handing the Trump administration a modest and perhaps temporary victory.
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted a request from the Trump administration to defer for 60 days a decision on litigation over a contested 2015 Environmental Protection Agency regulation, known as the Clean Power Plan. The rule, aimed at shutting down heavily polluting coal-fired power plants and replacing them with renewable energy sources, was the centerpiece of Mr. Obama’s efforts to enact a series of ambitious regulations to reduce the United States’ contributions to global warming.
Image taken from “How Americans Think About Climate Change”. Read the full article here.
Twenty-eight states and several major industry groups had sued the Obama administration seeking to overturn the rule, arguing that it was unduly burdensome to utilities and too costly for consumers.
The regulation was a major target for Mr. Trump, who called it “stupid” and a “job killer” on the campaign trail and has begun taking steps to repeal it. In an executive order last month, Mr. Trump directed his E.P.A. administrator, Scott Pruitt, to begin the lengthy legal process of dismantling it, and at the same time requested that the court put the lawsuit on hold while the agency came up with a new plan.
Had the court rejected Mr. Trump’s request and upheld the Clean Power Plan, it would have made it far more difficult for Mr. Pruitt to roll back the rule.
“This ruling is important, because it means it will now be easier for the Trump E.P.A. to revoke or revise the Clean Power Plan,” said Jeff Holmstead, a lawyer with the firm Bracewell, which represents many of the fossil fuel companies suing to overturn the rule. “At the very least, it means it will take less time.”
The legal hold will have little practical impact, however, upon the nation’s energy economy and coal industry. The climate change rule has never been formally put in place, after the Supreme Court last year said that states did not have to comply until all litigation had been resolved.
But the ruling comes as the environmental movement is galvanized against what many advocates for climate action have called a concerted assault on environmental protections by Mr. Trump. On Saturday, thousands of demonstrators are expected to march in Washington and across the country to protest those actions.
“This further delay by the court comes even as hundreds of thousands around the country prepare to march tomorrow for the climate protection that polls show an overwhelming majority of Americans strongly support,” said Paul Bledsoe, a former climate adviser for the Clinton administration who is now a lecturer at the Center for Environmental Policy of American University. “Coming on top of the unprecedented Supreme Court stay last year, it gives the appearance to average citizens that the courts are standing with the far-right wing against sensible climate action.”