Decision is setback for Obama’s climate agenda
WASHINGTON—A divided Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily blocked the Obama administration’s initiative to limit carbon emissions from power plants, dealing an early and potentially significant blow to a rule that is the cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s efforts to slow climate change.
The court, in a brief written order, granted emergency requests by officials of mostly Republican-led states and business groups to delay the regulation while they challenge its legality.
Although the Supreme Court’s order is temporary and isn’t a ruling on the merits, it indicates the court’s conservative majority harbors misgivings about the Obama administration plan. It signals the rules could run into trouble in the courts, which could hamper the administration’s ability to follow through on U.S. commitments in the Paris climate deal.
The court’s action, which divided the justices along ideological lines, came as a surprise to many observers because the court has strict criteria for granting stays. And the Environmental Protection Agency rules, issued last summer, have yet to be evaluated by lower court judges.
The EPA rule is aimed at compelling utilities to shift away from coal-fired power plants, which have been the bedrock of U.S. electricity generation for decades, toward such renewable sources as wind and solar, and to a lesser extent toward natural gas and nuclear power.
Lawyers challenging the EPA rule called the court’s move highly unusual. “It is the first time that the Supreme Court has actually stayed a regulation,” said Jeff Holmstead, a former EPA air official under President George W. Bush and a lawyer at Bracewell & Giuliani who represents clients suing the agency over the rule.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the administration disagreed with the Supreme Court’s move. “We remain confident that we will prevail on the merits,” Mr. Earnest said.