Will the U.S. Supreme Court block the Clean Power Plan?

Fossil fuel dinosaurs make last-ditch effort to keep polluting the nation’s air with dangerous greenhouse gases

Mercury from the Craig Station power plant in northwest Colorado pollutes lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Mercury from the Craig Station power plant in northwest Colorado pollutes lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

By Bob Berwyn

Texas, West Virginia, Colorado and 26 other states are going to the U.S. Supreme Court with a last-ditch effort to slow the Obama administration’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.

The states want the court to block implementation of the EPA Clean Power Plan, which they describe as “the most far reaching and burdensome rule EPA has ever forced onto the States.”

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected the same request, leading to the appeal to the Supreme Court. The states say the plan will require a massive shift away from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy, and claim the changes will cost jobs and money.In reality, the plan gives states a lot of flexibility to meet the targets. In 2009, EPA determined that greenhouse gas pollution threatens Americans’ health and welfare by leading to long-lasting changes in our climate that can have a range of negative effects on human health and the environment. Carbon dioxide is the most prevalent greenhouse gas pollutant, accounting for nearly three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions and 82 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

 

  • When the Clean Power Plan is fully in place in 2030, carbon pollution from the power sector will be 32 percent below 2005 levels, securing progress and making sure it continues.
  • The transition to cleaner sources of energy will better protect Americans from other harmful air pollution, too. By 2030, emissions of sulfur dioxide from power plants will be 90 percent lower compared to 2005 levels, and emissions of nitrogen oxides will be 72 percent lower. Because these pollutants can create dangerous soot and smog, the historically low levels mean we will avoid thousands of premature deaths and have thousands fewer asthma attacks and hospitalizations in 2030 and every year beyond.

But critics see it differently. Here’s an excerpt from the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court:

Indeed, the Plan is presently compelling States and regulated entities to take irreversible actions—amending state laws and regulations, making irrecoverable expenditures, and undertaking planning and investment decisions, including retiring plants … “If this Court does not enter a stay, the Plan will continue to unlawfully impose massive and irreparable harms upon the sovereign States, as well as irreversible changes in the energy markets.”

 

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