Supreme Court Decision to Temporarily Block Clean Power Plan Does Not Prevent States from Implementing It

Published Feb 10, 2016

WASHINGTON (February 10, 2016) — Late yesterday, the Supreme Court temporarily put on hold the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan to limit carbon pollution from power plants. Below is a statement by attorney Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to hold up the administration’s efforts to cut carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants is a speed bump, not a stop sign, for progress. It is not a ruling on the merits, and it would be a mistake to read too much into a one–paragraph decision. At this point, the best interpretation is that the court wants to make sure it has decided whether the Clean Power Plan is valid before states or companies are obliged to make significant decisions to implement it.

“It does not prevent states from going forward with their plans to meet their individual targets, and we urge them to do so. They have a range of policy tools under their own state laws to do that, including renewable energy standards, efficiency standards, and, in some states, cap-and-trade programs. It is critical that forward-thinking states — as well as counties and municipalities — continue to lead the way.

“After all, it’s the smart thing to do. Transitioning from coal to cleaner energy sources, especially wind, solar and other renewable technologies, significantly improves public health, protects the environment, create jobs, and reduces energy costs. And many states are already well on their way to implementing the Clean Power Plan. They shouldn’t let this decision hold them back.

“We also can’t afford to lag behind the rest of the world. The historic global climate agreement in Paris late last year committed the world to transitioning away from fossil fuels, and every state that gets ahead of the curve will benefit economically.

“Finally, the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority and responsibility under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions. So the question becomes, then, how to best do that, and the Clean Power Plan offers states the most flexibility in meeting the plan’s goals.

“The Supreme Court’s decision may be disappointing, but it won’t change the underlying dynamics leading us to a clean energy future.”