Wednesday, February 10, 2016

High court blocks power-plant rules while legal battle goes on; rural electric co-ops cheer

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan "until a lower court has resolved the legal case against it," Curtis Tate reports for McClatchy Newspapers. "Under the plan, states would have to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by a third by 2030. But states that rely heavily on coal to produce electricity, including Kentucky and West Virginia, had argued that the plan was unconstitutional." West Virginia and Kentucky are second and third to Wyoming in coal production and get the vast majority of their electricity from coal.

The court's order means that the states that sued to stop the rules, which are aimed at greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, won't have to comply while the legal battle is being fought in a lower appellate court. The ruling was good news for rural electric co-ops, which also rely heavily on coal. Chris Perry, president and CEO of the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives, said in a press release, "Without this stay, co-ops would have been forced to take expensive and irreversible actions to comply with the rule."

(Climate Desk graphic: States suing over the rules, ranked by percent of their electricity that comes from coal, as of Oct. 23, 2015)
Production of Central Appalachian coal—produced mainly in West Virginia and Kentucky—was 40 percent below average between 2010 and 2014, and a decline in coal jobs has led West Virginia to have the negative distinction of being the only state in the U.S. where more than half of adults are out of work. Coal was also an issue in the November election in Kentucky, where Republicans tied Democrats to Obama's energy policies, Tate writes. Since Obama took office in 2008, "Republicans have shut Democrats out of the governor’s mansion, both U.S. Senate seats and five of the state’s six House seats."

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey told The Associated Press, "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." Wyoming’s Gov. Matt Mead also applauded the decision, AP reports: “This is a big win for Wyoming and the nation. It puts on hold this very bad policy based on a deeply flawed process while the legal issues are being addressed. I couldn’t be happier.”

For a legal analysis from Case Western Reserve University law professor Jonathan Adler, in The Washington Post, click here.

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