WASHINGTON (AP) — A divided Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to halt enforcement of President Barack Obama’s sweeping plan to address climate change until after legal challenges are resolved.
The surprising move is a blow to the administration and a victory for the coalition of 27 states, including Montana, and industry opponents that call the regulations “an unprecedented power grab.”
By temporarily freezing the rule the high court’s order signals that opponents have made a strong argument against the plan. A federal appeals court last month refused to put it on hold.
The court’s four liberal justices said they would have denied the request.
The plan aims to stave off the worst predicted impacts of climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions at existing power plants by about one-third by 2030.
“I have been clear that I think these rules were unfair to Montana,” Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said in a statement. “Given the court’s ruling today, I am putting the work of the Clean Power Plan Council on hold. What we cannot put on hold, however, is the need to address climate change and embrace Montana’s energy future, and I am committed to ensuring we do so on our own terms.”
Montana Attorney General Tim Fox hailed the court’s decision.
“The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to halt implementation of the EPA’s carbon regulations is a clear victory for Montana and the 27 other states that are challenging those regulations in court,” Fox said in a statement.
“Today’s ruling will prevent Montana families, energy workers, businesses, and public agencies from bearing the burden of regulations that we believe will be overturned ultimately.”
U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, also applauded the Tuesday’s action.
“The Supreme Court decision to issue a nationwide stay on the Obama administration’s misguided, job-killing rule is great news for Montana. The so-called Clean Power Plan will kill Montana jobs and leads our country in the wrong direction — away from being an energy leader,” he said in a prepared statement.
Appellate arguments are set to begin June 2.
The compliance period starts in 2022, but states must submit their plans to the Environmental Protection Administration by September or seek an extension.
Many states opposing the plan depend on economic activity tied to such fossil fuels as coal, oil and gas. They argued that power plants will have to spend billions of dollars to begin complying with a rule that may end up being overturned.
Implementation of the rules is considered essential to the United States meeting emissions-reduction targets in a global climate agreement signed in Paris last month. The Obama administration and environmental groups also say the plan will spur new clean-energy jobs.
To persuade the high court to temporarily halt the plan, opponents had to convince the justices that there was a “fair prospect” the court would strike down the rule. The court also had to consider whether denying a stay would cause irreparable harm to the states and utility companies affected.