In a major victory for the White House, the D.C. Court of Appeals on Friday suspended a case on the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, paving the way for the administration to dismantle the rule without interference from the courts.
President and Trump and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt want to formally undo the plan, which would’ve set the first national limits on carbon emissions from power plants. The proposal was a cornerstone of former President Obama’s environmental agenda.
After lawsuits from energy companies and Republican state officials, including Mr. Pruitt, the plan was stayed by a federal court last year. The D.C. court was expected to soon rule on whether the proposal violated the federal Clean Air Act, which had been the chief legal argument against the proposal.
Friday’s decision removes the possibility that a court could step in and declare the plan perfectly lawful even as the administration begins undoing it. Such a scenario would’ve been politically embarrassing for the EPA and would’ve represented a significant win for environmental activists.
Now, without court interference, it looks as if the Clean Power Plan is destined for the ash heap.
“Today’s decision by the court is a positive step toward protecting West Virginia coal miners and those who depend upon their success,” said West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, one of the Republican officials who challenged the plan in court. “The court recognized the landscape has changed and that a decision on the merits is not appropriate at this time.”
But environmentalists contend that the plan is legally sound, and that ultimately federal courts will force the EPA to fulfill its duty to regulate harmful emissions.
“The fact is that the Clean Power Plan remains on strong legal footing, with readily achievable emissions reduction targets toward which our nation is already making major strides to save lives and protect the health of the public,” said Joanne Spalding, chief counsel for the Sierra Club. “This progress can’t be turned around as clean energy is growing cheaper and more accessible.”