It was a judicial backlash against what 27 states and various lawmakers had labeled “an unprecedented power grab” by President Barack Obama.
On Tuesday, a divided Supreme Court officially put Obama’s signature plan to address global warming on hold until legal challenges are resolved.
Critics had said that Obama’s plan to slash power plant emissions by one-third by the year 2030 would “dramatically transform the way electricity is produced and regulated in America,” according to Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee.
The surprising move by the court is a blow to the Obama administration and a victory for the coalition of mostly Republican-led states and industry opponents, who praised the high court’s ruling.
By issuing the temporary freeze, a 5-4 majority of the justices signaled that opponents made strong arguments against the new rules, while simultaneously saving taxpayers $51 billion annually and pardoning 224,000 jobs from regulatory gallows, according to one study.
A federal appeals court in Washington last month refused to put the plan on hold. That lower court is not likely to issue a ruling on the legality of the plan until months after it hears oral arguments begin on June 2.
Any decision will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court, meaning resolution of the legal fight is not likely to happen until after Obama leaves office.
Compliance with the new rules isn’t required until 2022, but states must submit their plans to the Environmental Protection Administration by September or seek an extension.
Many states opposing the plan depend on economic activity tied to such fossil fuels as coal, oil and gas. They argued that the plan oversteps federal authority to restrict carbon emissions, and that electricity providers would have to spend billions of dollars to begin complying with a rule that might end up being overturned.
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia, whose coal-dependent state is helping lead the legal fight, hailed the court’s decision.
“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,” Morrisey said.
To convince the high court to temporarily halt the plan, opponents had to convince the justices that there was a “fair prospect” the court might strike down the rule. The court also had to consider whether denying a stay would cause irreparable harm to the states and utility companies affected.
The unsigned, one-page order blocks the rules from taking effect while the legal fight plays out in the appeals court and during any further appeal to the Supreme Court, a process that easily could extend into 2017.
Liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan would have denied the request for delay.
The Associated Press contributed to this article