President Obama’s climate change agenda was dealt a serious blow when the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to halt the administration’s new power plant regulations.
The ruling halts the plan the climate change plan until after legal challenges from 27 states are resolved.
The surprising move is a victory for the battered coal industry as well as the coalition of 27 mostly Republican-led states and industry opponents that call the regulations "an unprecedented power grab." Fox News reported.
By temporarily freezing the rule the high court's order signals that opponents have made a strong argument against the plan. A federal appeals court last month refused to put it on hold.
"We disagree with the Supreme Court's decision to stay the Clean Power Plan while litigation proceeds," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement. Earnest said the administration's plan is based on a strong legal and technical foundation, and gives the states time to develop cost-effective plans to reduce emissions. He also said the administration will continue to "take aggressive steps to make forward progress to reduce carbon emissions."
Appellate arguments are set to begin June 2.
The compliance period starts in 2022, but states must submit their plans to the Environmental Protection Administration by September or seek an extension.
Many states opposing the plan depend on economic activity tied to such fossil fuels as coal, oil and gas. They argued that power plants will have to spend billions of dollars to begin complying with a rule that may end up being overturned.
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia, whose coal-dependent state is helping lead the legal fight, hailed the court's decision.
"We are thrilled that the Supreme Court realized the rule's immediate impact and froze its implementation, protecting workers and saving countless dollars as our fight against its legality continues," Morrisey said.
Implementation of the rules is considered essential to the United States meeting emissions-reduction targets in a global climate agreement signed in Paris last month. The Obama administration and environmental groups also say the plan will spur new clean-energy jobs.
To convince the high court to temporarily halt the plan, opponents had to convince the justices that there was a "fair prospect" the court might strike down the rule. The court also had to consider whether denying a stay would cause irreparable harm to the states and utility companies affected.
The unsigned, one-page order blocks the rules from taking effect while the legal fight plays out in the appeals court and during any further appeal to the Supreme Court, a process that easily could extend into 2017.