Calm Down – The Supreme Court’s “Stay” on the Clean Power Plan is Just a Procedural Step


On February 9th, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court placed a “stay” on implementing the Clean Power Plan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. power plants. With a 5-to-4 vote, the Court has put a halt to the regulation while its legal fate is being decided. The request for a stay came from a coalition of 27 states, led by West Virginia and including most of the states in the South. The claim is that the regulation is overly far-reaching and burdensome. 

The coalition’s request for a “stay” did not dispute the Regulatory Impact Assessment of the Clean Power Plan, which showed that the benefits of the regulation far exceed the costs. There would be costs – a clean grid will require decommissioning the oldest, inefficient coal plants and removing their coal ash ponds as well as constructing cleaner power systems and deploying low-cost energy efficiency. But the benefits are much greater – including reduced childhood asthma and other respiratory diseases as well as reduced climate disruption from severe floods, storms, wildfires, and droughts. 

The good news is that the Court has agreed to begin hearing arguments on the case on June 2, 2016. Hopefully the legality of the Clean Power Plan will be determined shortly thereafter, so that the nation can settle on a course of action for curtailing carbon dioxide emissions from its power generators.