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  February 11, 2016

Supreme Court Deals a Blow to Climate Change Efforts


On Tuesday, the Supreme Court favored a coalition of states and energy companies when it stayed Obama's rules to limit greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from coal
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THOMAS HEDGES, TRNN: On Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued a stay on the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan, which would have reduced gas emissions from existing power plants. The decision came in reaction to a lawsuit from a 29-state coalition to strike down the Clean Power Plan.

The suit was not only brought by states, but also by energy companies. Particularly coal companies, like Peabody Coal, and a coalition of utility companies.

CYNTHIA LUMMIS: This administration would have you believe it's either a clean environment or coal. Well, I can tell you from the hearing we just had in the Science Committee that if everybody here would just hop on one foot, you will have done enough or as much to impact climate change as these new EP regulations will do.

HEDGES: The coalition of states argues that the burden of compliance is too severe, and that the plan would drive up the costs of utilities, for example. In response to the Supreme Court decision, the White House responded critically, saying that, quote:

“We disagree with the Supreme Court's decision. The Clean Power Plan is based on a strong legal and technical foundation, and gives states the time and flexibility they need to develop tailored, cost-effective plans to reduce their emissions.”

TYSON SLOCUM: Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled, not on the merits of the case, but in a 5-4 decision said, yes, we will enforce a stay, which means the EPA cannot continue to work on the rule until after the courts have heard, have made a decision on the merits of the rule itself.

HEDGES: Tyson Slocum is an energy policy expert at Public Citizen in Washington, DC. He says the lawsuit, which is set to go back to the lower courts this summer, will bounce back to the Supreme Court when the side that loses appeals. And when that happens, Slocum says, he'll be watching one of the five justices in particular who voted for the stay.

SLOCUM: It's very important to note that one of the five voting for a stay is Justice Kennedy. He's a Republican, he was appointed by Reagan. But what's important to know about Justice Kennedy is that he was the author of the 2007 Supreme Court case, Massachusetts v. EPA, which was the Supreme Court case that said the EPA must regulate greenhouse gas emissions under its existing Clean Air Act authority.

So it would be unusual, to say the least, for a justice who authored the landmark climate change decision in the Supreme Court's history to then turn around and say that the EPA plan to regulate greenhouse gas emissions is illegal.

HEDGES: A decision in favor of the 29-state coalition could complicate the United States's role in the most recent Paris climate talks. The EPA rule serves as a bedrock of federal efforts to reduce and control greenhouse gas emissions, Slocum says, and a ruling that hampers the EPA's efforts could signal to other countries that the U.S. can't hold up its end of the bargain.

But Slocum says market factors could finish up the EPA's work if it fails to move forward on the Clean Power Plan.

SLOCUM: The utility industry has already been pivoting away from coal, and more towards renewables, and primarily natural gas. And that's because of widespread hydraulic fracturing or fracking in the United States.

So the fact is is that the utility industry is already moving in a direction that the EPA rule was designed to push it into. The EPA rule simply formalized a process by which you can measure and plan for emission reductions. So just--let's assume that the Supreme Court ultimately throws out the EPA rule. Yes, that's going to create some problems. But it's not going to make coal automatically an attractive fuel source again. Coal has been, is quickly becoming obsolete, not because of the EPA rule, but because of market dynamics.

HEDGES: For the Real News, Thomas Hedges, Washington.

End

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.



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