- Legal challenges to the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan are premature and must wait for final regulations to be issued this summer, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled this week.
- The federal government is expected to issue the final version of the EPA's Clean Power Plan, which aims to cut carbon emissions from the power sector 30% by 2030, in August. The D.C. Circuit said in its ruling that fossil fuel companies and states resistant to the rule will have to wait until then to make their challenges.
- While the court ruled this challenge was premature, The New York Times reports legal experts expect lawsuits surrounding the CPP to ultimately wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The first challenge to the Clean Power Plan has failed, but that is not much of an indication of the rocky legal road likely ahead for Obama's signature climate change legislation. A three-judge panel from the D.C. Circuit unanimously tossed out coal giant Murray Energy's challenge to the rule, finding the lawsuit premature. The federal government is expected to issue final CPP regulations this summer, but as The New York Times points out the law will likely wind up in front of the Supreme Court.
For now, however, environmental advocates hailed the court's 3-0 decision.
"The first legal challenge to the Clean Power Plan failed today, and others the polluters will trot out should fail as well," David Doniger, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate and Clean Air Program, said in a statement. "The Supreme Court has three times already upheld EPA’s duty to tackle carbon pollution and climate change. We'll continue pressing for the strongest carbon pollution standards to combat the threats posed by climate change.”
Critics of the federal government's plan to cut carbon have made a variety of arguments against the law, including saying states cannot be forced to comply because it would violate the 10th Amendment, which designates which powers are delegated to the federal government, and which to the states. Opponents of the plan have regularly called the regulations a "massive overreach" of the federal government's authority, as Southern Co. CEO Tom Fanning said at a conference this week.
Clean power advocates, however, argue that a correct reading of the EPA's role indicates that it does have the authorization to regulate existing power plants and set limits on carbon emissions. They say enough flexibility has been built into the plan to allow states to decide how best to meet their emissions targets.
Some states have indicated they may refuse to file an implementation plan — an approach advocated by Sen. Mitch McConnell, who hails from coal-heavy Kentucky. But the federal government is developing guidelines for how to implement its plan absent a state compliance strategy, and McConnell's call to arms appears to have found limited support. Only Oklahoma, Texas and his home state have so far indicated they may reject the federal government's carbon mandate, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker recently hinted the same in a letter to President Obama.