Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Strange Supreme Court Stay on President Obama's Climate Change Rules

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Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court put a stay on the implementation of President Obama's climate change rules. You can read about this here in an article in the Washington Post. The stay stalls any significant action on climate change until at least 2017.

The brief decision, which you can read here, provides few clues on why the court halted the plan. However, the aggressive EPA plan was criticized by coal and oil companies and utilities who felt that the EPA overstepped its authority. However, many supported the plan and some argued that it did not go far enough.

What is strange about this decision is that the Supreme Court decided in 2007 that the EPA was not doing enough (really anything) to prevent greenhouse gas pollution and climate change. They stated clearly that the executive branch had the responsibility to act appropriately to manage greenhouse gases. Failure to do so would be harmful to states and other property owners who were already seeing impacts from global climate change. It is difficult to understand the court's decision in light of the 2007 ruling.

Delaying the implementation of greenhouse gas rules seems to counter the original ruling of the courts. Either the EPA has authority or it does not. Given the well documented impacts of greenhouse gas pollution, the decision of the court is deeply irresponsible at this moment of time when it is crucial that we rapidly decrease greenhouse gas pollution in our country and throughout the world.

If you are interested in deeper background on U.S. greenhouse gas policy, you can read an article I wrote in 2011 my colleague Sandra Garren about greenhouse gas rule making in the U.S. here. It is a little out of date, but not that much as changed since 2011 with the exception of the aggressive push by the EPA which the courts just put on hold.

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