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US Supreme Court “pauses” Clean Power Plan

Brennan Howell, February 16, 2016

Last week, the United States Supreme Court gave a surprise decision on the Clean Power Plan – the nation’s first-ever carbon pollution standards for power plants. The Court’s announcement to halt the implementation of the CPP has shocked many, and for good reason. The Supreme Court has never stopped implementation of a regulation before a lower federal court has had its say. Law professors who specialize in the Clean Air Act referred to the decision as outrageous and shocking, and indicated the decision was politically motivated.

It is unlikely the stay will be lifted until sometime late in 2017, which is when we expect the Supreme Court to make a final decision on the legal merits of the Clean Power Plan.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s announcement, many states have indicated they will continue CPP implementation planning, though Ohio is unfortunately not among them. The OEC encourages the Ohio EPA to continue planning to ensure the state does not jeopardize its ability to implement a flexible, cost effective plan.

What does this mean for the Clean Power Plan as a whole?

The CPP is facing a temporary setback, but don’t count it out. In previous Supreme Court cases like Massachusetts vs. EPA and AEP vs. Connecticut, the Supreme Court determined that the US EPA not only has the authority, but also the obligation to regulate carbon pollution through the CPP.

As with those previous cases and numerous others, the Supreme Court will likely agree with the US EPA that the agency has broad authority to regulate carbon pollution. It is extremely rare for the US Supreme Court to rule contrary to the kind of robust case law that supports the CPP.

On June 2 the US Court of Appeals-DC Circuit will have a chance to review the legal merits of the CPP. When the DC Circuit rules, likely favorably, the fate of the CPP will be kicked up to the Supreme Court. We expect the Supreme Court ultimately rule in favor of the CPP.

The news of Justice Scalia’s death this past weekend adds an additional wrinkle to this case. In the event a replacement for Justice Scalia is not named in time to hear the case, and the court splits 4-4, the D.C. Circuit Court’s CPP decision will be upheld.

What about Ohio?

Regardless of what the Supreme Court does, they can’t stop clean energy from moving forward in Ohio. Clean energy is a common sense policy and will help lower Ohioans’ electric bills and create jobs. The less money Ohioans spend on energy, the more money they can spend at Ohio businesses.

Ohio’s has already benefited greatly from the state’s investment in clean energy. Over the past few years, Ohio energy efficiency policies saved us over $1 billion, and clean energy employs close to 90,000 people in across the state.

Despite this temporary setback the future of clean energy is still bright and we must continue to push our decision makers to embrace it. Sign onto our clean energy petition, today, to voice your support.