White House stands by Clean Power Plan

Near-split decision from Supreme Court slows implementation of Clean Power Plan.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Feb. 10, 2016 at 9:41 AM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- As the Supreme Court issues a stay on a pivotal Clean Power Plan, the White House said the EPA would continue working with states to reduce their emissions.

In North Dakota v. EPA, et al., the nation's highest court granted a stay of the so-called Clean Power Plan pending a review in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor moved against the application for the stay.

The order delays part of President Barack Obama's plans to cut carbon pollution from power plants fueled by fossil fuels like coal. The final version of the Clean Power Plan sets a goal of cutting emissions of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, by 32 percent of their 2005 baseline by 2030, 9 percent more than in the original proposal. States need to meet specific emission reductions based on state-by-state energy consumption criteria.

States like North Dakota and Kentucky, which rely heavily on the fossil fuels industry, are opposed to the plans, though compliance wasn't required until 2022. Most of the states opposing the measure rely on coal.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the Environmental Protection Agency would continue working with state governments on ways to lower their emissions. The administration's efforts to cut emissions, he added, will be "aggressive."

"The Clean Power Plan is based on a strong legal and technical foundation," he said in a statement. "We remain confident that we will prevail on the merits."

U.S. Reps. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Fred Upton, R-Mich., said the Supreme Court's ruling reinforced their opinion that Obama's policies were based on shaky legal ground.

"This decision is huge as the court essentially hit the brakes on the EPA's version of Obamacare," the said, referencing the president's controversial Affordable Care Act.

In the final State of the Union address before leaving office, the president said the nation's energy policy priorities should focus on a transition away from "old, dirtier energy sources."

The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates total U.S. coal production will decline 3 percent this year as the country pushes a low-carbon agenda. David Doniger, director of clean air programs for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the near-split decision in the Supreme Court was evidence of a shifting energy landscape in the United States.

"The electricity sector has embarked on an unstoppable shift from its high-pollution, dirty-fueled past to a safer, cleaner-powered future, and the stay cannot reverse that trend," he said in a statement.

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