June 9, 2015 In a major victory for the Obama administration, a panel of federal judges has blocked a challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency's planned efforts to limit carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants.
ruling does not prevent future legal challenges against the rules but
states that a challenge before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C.
Circuit came too early, as EPA has not yet finalized its climate rule.
That action is expected later this summer.
case, brought by coal company Murray Energy and a coalition of states
led by West Virginia, was an early skirmish in the high-stakes legal
battle over the rules, which stand as the centerpiece of President
Obama's second-term climate-change agenda.
was highly unusual in that it attempted to challenge the legality of a
federal rule before it had been made final. At least two of the judges
on the three-judge federal panel appeared hesitant during oral arguments
in April to side with state and industry challengers, suggesting that
such a move would break with long-held precedent and open the floodgates
to future legal challenges against not-yet-final rules.
are champing at the bit to challenge EPA's anticipated rule restricting
carbon-dioxide emissions from existing power plants. But EPA has not
yet issued a final rule. It has issued only a proposed rule," stated
Judge Brett Kavanaugh, writing for the majority of the three-judge
panel. "They want us to do something that they candidly acknowledge we
have never done before: review the legality of a proposed rule. But a
proposed rule is just a proposal."
Tuesday's decision does not mean, however, that the rule is safe from
future legal attacks. The legal opinion did not delve into the wide
array of arguments that opponents have marshaled in support of their
effort to dismantle the regulation, leaving an opening for an
all-but-guaranteed onslaught of lawsuits sure to arrive once the rule is
Nevertheless, the ruling arrives as a key victory for the administration.
is pleased that the court has denied the challenges to our proposed
Clean Power Plan and confirmed our assessment that they are premature,"
Liz Purchia, a spokesperson for the agency, said. "The Clean Power Plan
is built on a time-tested state-federal partnership established by
Congress decades ago in the Clean Air Act that gives states important
flexibility to design plans that meet their individual and unique
were also quick to applaud. "Today's decision by the U.S. Court of
Appeals is both a big win in protecting our communities and families
against the massive carbon pollution from power plants and an important
victory for a fair and democratic rule-making process," Vickie Patton,
the general counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, said.
decision delivers a blow to Republican opponents of the regulation who
had hoped that the panel of conservative judges would rule in their
led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have vowed to fight the
regulations tooth and nail, accusing the administration of attempting to
wage a war on coal by pushing the regulatory regime forward.
has urged states not to comply with the rule and vowed to do everything
in his power to fight back. But lacking the necessary votes to override
a presidential veto, McConnell's bid to sink the rule looks more likely
to succeed in the courts than in Congress.