W.Va. Officials Hail Court’s Halting of Clean Coal Plan as ‘Major Victory’

The U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday handed a victory to West Virginia and 23 other states when it agreed to halt enforcement of President Barack Obama's sweeping plan to address climate change until after legal challenges are resolved.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey hailed the decision, a blow to the administration, as monumental, explaining that it prevents the EPA from enforcing its illegal and unprecedented power plan until the court challenge concludes.

The court's 5-4 decision saw its four liberal justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, saying they would have denied the request for delay.

By temporarily freezing the rule, the high court's order signals that opponents have made a strong argument against the plan, which 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. A federal appeals court last month refused to put it on hold.

That court is not likely to issue a ruling on the plan until months after it hears oral arguments, which begin June 2. But any decision likely would be appealed to the Supreme Court, meaning resolution of the legal fight is not likely to happen until after Obama as left office.

"Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is pleased that the court will stop implementation of the new rules until legality is determined," spokesman Chris Stadelman told The Register-Herald. "He looks forward to the day we can put more West Virginia miners back to work."

Morrisey said the decision provides immediate relief for workers and businesses across the country. It also reinforces confidence in the broader challenge as the Supreme Court found the coalition’s arguments strong enough to stop EPA even before the lawsuit concludes.

“We are thrilled that the Supreme Court realized the rule’s immediate impact and froze its implementation, protecting workers and saving countless dollars as our fight against its legality continues,” the attorney general said.

Obama's press spokesman released this statement from the president: "We disagree with the Supreme Court's decision to stay the Clean Power Plan while litigation proceeds. The Clean Power Plan is based on a strong legal and technical foundation, gives states the time and flexibility they need to develop tailored, cost-effective plans to reduce their emission, and will deliver better air quality, improved public health, clean energy investment and jobs across the country, and major progress in our efforts to confront the risks posed by climate change. We remain confident that we will prevail on the merits.

"Even while the litigation proceeds, EPA has indicated it will work with states that choose to continue plan development and will prepare the tools those states will need. At the same time, the administration will continue to take aggressive steps to make forward progress to reduce carbon emissions," the statement concluded.

U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., said agreed that the Supreme Court's action "is a major victory for West Virginia, and we will continue the fight in both the courts and in Congress."

He thanked Morrisey for leading the charge on this issue, adding, "together we will use every tool possible to give hope to our coal miners and protect West Virginia’s jobs.”

In her statement on the decision, U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said the decision "recognizes that Americans should not continue to bear the brunt of this administration’s costly regulations when there are serious doubts about their legality. This is a major step forward to stop the EPA’s unworkable and overreaching regulations and is consistent with legislation I introduced last year.

The state's only Democratic in Congress, Sen. Joe Manchin, said that the ruling sends a strong signal to the EPA that it must stop ignoring the damage its regulations are causing to West Virginia's energy sector, economy and our way of life.

"I have made it clear that this agency's reckless actions must be stopped immediately. The EPA continues to overstep its legal authority and impose regulations one after another regardless of the impact on our economy and our people. I applaud the Supreme Court for recognizing that these regulations are simply unlawful. ...

"Our own Department of Energy has stated that coal will make up nearly 30 percent of our energy portfolio over the next few decades. Instead of working against us and imposing these self-inflicted wounds to our economy, this administration should work with us to promote the clean energy technology of the future that we can develop right here in West Virginia.”

In opposing the request for delay, the EPA argued that states had plenty of time to comply with the requirements as the rule is rolled out over the next six years.

Environmentalists were stunned by the court's action, which they stressed did not reflect a decision on the relative strength of the Obama administration's case.

"The Clean Power Plan has a firm anchor in our nation's clean air laws and a strong scientific record, and we look forward to presenting our case on the merits in the courts," said Vickie Patton, a lawyer for Environmental Defense Fund, which is a party to the case.

West Virginia and Texas led 23 other states in challenging the EPA’s power plan on Oct. 23, 2015, the day it was published. The states argue EPA exceeded its authority by double regulating coal-fired power plants and forcing states to fundamentally shift their energy portfolios away from coal-fired generation among other reasons.

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.

View a copy of the Supreme Court’s order at http://1.usa.gov/1V1ZLPW.

By:  Staff and Wire Reports
Source: Beckley Register-Herald