Plaintiffs and environmentalists alike welcomed the unusual decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to postpone oral arguments on the Clean Power Plan until September. The court had scheduled the arguments for June 2 before a three-judge panel. But in a move widely seen as an acknowledgment of the serious issues involved, the arguments were rescheduled for hearing Sept. 27 by the full Court of Appeals.
President Barack Obama (D) announced the Clean Power Plan on Aug. 3, 2015, calling it “the single most important step America has ever taken in the fight against global climate change.” The plan’s goal is to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, the source of 31% of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions. Implementation is to begin with setting of goals for carbon-dioxide emissions by the Environmental Protection Agency. The goals are tailored for each state, tribe and U.S. territory, leaving the decisions on how to meet them to plans drawn up by the state and local authorities.
The first lawsuit against it was filed in June, eight weeks before the President’s announcement, and on Aug. 1, two days before the announcement, 11 states, led by West Virginia and Texas, filed suit challenging the authority of the EPA to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. That suit now has attracted 26 petitioner states. In February 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay on the Clean Power Plan, halting its implementation pending a June review by a panel of three judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. That court was expected to publish its decision in the fall. Now it has rescheduled arguments for hearing by the full 11-member Court of Appeals.
“We welcome this unusual step by the full court, which confirms our long-held view that the Power Plan is an unprecedented and transformative rule of a kind the states have never seen from EPA,” West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) said in a statement. “We look forward to presenting our arguments in September.” The Natural Resources Defense Council also sees the postponement in a positive light. “The court's order today may well speed up final resolution of the case,” said David Doniger, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at NRDC. “We look forward to our day in court, and remain confident that the Clean Power Plan will prevail over efforts by polluters and their allies to block climate action.”