WASHINGTON, April 28, 2017 - The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has put a hold on litigation over the Clean Power Plan while it considers whether to send the matter back to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The court granted the Trump administration’s motion to hold in abeyance the consolidated cases before it, which were the subject of a full day of oral arguments last fall.
The court, which had been expected to issue a decision soon, instead suspended proceedings for 60 days and ordered the parties to file supplemental briefs by May 15 on whether to remand the matter to EPA.
“We welcome this news from the D.C. Circuit,” EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said in an e-mailed statement. “Last year, the Supreme Court granted a stay on the Clean Power Plan, so we always knew there were serious legal problems with this initiative from the Obama administration.”
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association also applauded the decision. “Today’s court announcement is welcome news. Since the administration has decided to revisit the CPP, there’s no need for the court to issue a decision,” NRECA CEO Jim Matheson said.
Sen. John Barrasso, the Wyoming Republican who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, said the decision was a win for his state’s energy workers.
“The so-called Clean Power Plan would shut down American power plants and increase energy costs for families,” Barrasso said. “This decision gives President Trump’s administration time to reverse this damaging Obama-era regulation.”
EPW ranking minority member Tom Carper, D-Del., however, said he was “deeply disappointed” in the appeals court’s decision. “When it comes to addressing climate change, the absolute last thing we need is further delay.”
Carper said he hopes the climate marches scheduled for Saturday in Washington, D.C., and across the country will help the Trump administration to “finally realize that the American people want us to act now to address climate change in a serious way.”
The rule, designed to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, was promulgated in October 2015 but was stayed by the Supreme Court in February 2016. In a March 28 motion to the court, EPA said that because it was reviewing the rule, which “may be significantly modified or rescinded” in accordance with a White House executive order, “holding this case in abeyance is the most efficient and logical course of action.”
Opponents of the regulation supported EPA’s request to pause the litigation. “There is a real risk that a decision by this court on the legality of the existing rule will amount to a mere advisory opinion because the rule may well be repealed or substantially altered in the near future,” states, utilities, businesses and trade associations said in a brief filed April 6.
Environmental and public health groups, however, argued that delaying a decision on the CPP would effectively convert the Supreme Court’s temporary stay “into a long-term suspension of the rule likely continuing for years, without any court having issued any decision on the rule’s merits,” according to their brief, filed April 5.
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