On February 9, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision staying implementation of the Clean Power Plan until the D.C. Circuit rules on challenges to the Plan. The Court left open the possibility that it would review the D.C. Circuit’s ultimate decision.

The decision delays President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. The Clean Power Plan is its key climate change rule. It requires states and utilities to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by generating less electricity from coal, and more from lower carbon-emitting sources like natural gas, or zero-carbon sources like solar and wind. The Plan has an ambitious goal: to reduce CO2 emissions 32% below 2005 levels by 2030.
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The D.C. Circuit denied industry petitioners’ motions to stay the effectiveness of the Clean Power Plan on Jan. 21. In a two-page order, the court found the petitioners had not satisfied the requirements for a stay pending review and issued an expedited case schedule.

The order asked parties to submit a format for briefing as well as a schedule by Jan. 27, 2016 that ensures that all briefing will be complete by April 22, 2016. Parties will debate whether the cost of implementing the rule is too great and whether EPA has exceeded the bounds of its authority, among numerous other issues. Oral arguments are scheduled to begin June 2, 2016 and continue to June 3 if necessary. This schedule could allow for a court decision before initial state plans are due in September 2016.
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Q:        What is the Clean Power Plan?

A:        The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) is proposing to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from fossil fuel-fired electric generating units (EGUs) through a rule called the Clean Power Plan.  This rule does not purport to directly regulate EGUs.  Instead, USEPA is proposing statewide carbon dioxide (CO2) emission goals and guidelines, called the “state goals.”  States would develop plans to meet those state goals, using a flexible menu of programs and tools that USEPA discusses in the proposal.  Most of the details are left to the states and will be included in State Implementation Plans (SIPs).
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