Skip to Content
MIT Technology Review

Supreme Court Strikes Blow Against Obama’s Climate Agenda

Ending a run of good news for clean energy, justices delayed emissions regulations while a legal battle plays out.

February 10, 2016

In a blow to President Obama's plans for combating climate change, the Supreme Court issued a stay yesterday that prevents the Clean Power Plan, the president’s initiative on fighting climate change, from restricting existing power plants’ emissions. Coming, as it did, seven years after the court held that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant, the ruling startled environmental advocates and clearly undermines the U.S. plan to reduce overall greenhouse-gas emissions under the Paris climate accord reached in December.

Issued without explanation in a terse order approved 5-4 along partisan lines, the ruling delays implementation of the plan while a federal appeals court considers the case brought by 29 states and fossil-fuel companies that seek to strike it down. As several commentators noted, it is extremely unusual for the high court to stay federal regulations while lower courts consider their constitutionality—in fact, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., unanimously refused to grant a stay just last month.

The Scattergood Power Plant in El Segundo, California, operating after sunset in 2006.

The Supreme Court’s move also ends a run of good news for the clean energy movement, which included Congress’s extension of the investment tax credit for solar power installations. Despite low oil prices, investment in and adoption of clean power has continued to soar in the last year.

That surge is not likely to be affected by whether the Clean Power Plan is ultimately upheld, but there are signs that economic winds may be changing. Shares in SolarCity, the nation’s largest installer of residential solar arrays, have lost 61 percent of their value in the last month as the company issued reduced projections for future growth.

(Source: Washington Post)