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Top Texas officials, buoyed by a victory at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday that dealt a setback to the Obama administration’s signature environmental policy, are now taking a victory lap.
At the behest of Texas and other states, chambers of commerce and some mining unions, the Supreme Court decided to hit the pause button on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s power plants. Scientists link greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide, to global warming. The high court issued a stay on the EPA plan while lower courts hear lawsuits from states that want to kill it.
The Supreme Court’s decision “put a stop to the EPA’s attempt to impose its new power rules into the lives of Americans coast to coast,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told reporters Wednesday. “The EPA had placed the livelihoods of far too many people on the line when it attempted to impose these misguided rules on the country, and thanks to the court’s action, we can all rest a little more securely today.”
He continued: “A major change like the power rule should not and cannot be left in the hands of unelected bureaucrats who have demonstrated more concern about placating the green lobby than keeping Americans working. This move was a blatant attempt to sidestep the legislative process and force through the will of one man — President (Barack) Obama — who tried to redraw the powers of the EPA in unprecedented ways.”
The Clean Power Plan, should it go forward, is likely to lead to the shuttering of some coal plants, prompting Republican policymakers in Texas and elsewhere to accuse the Obama administration of waging a “war on coal.”
Leaders in Texas, West Virginia and other states have said the rules will harm their states’ economy and constitutes a power grab.
Environmentalists have said Texas officials should look for ways to tamp down carbon emissions and invest in cleaner energy sources instead of fighting the regulation.
Challenges by Texas officials to federal environmental rules have had a mixed record, and the Obama plan could still rule the day since Tuesday’s decision only puts the Clean Power Plan on hold. But court-watchers say the 5-4 decision to issue a stay suggests the Supreme Court would be unsympathetic to the EPA should the rule itself come before the high court.
“This decision is a huge loss for our kids’ future and for all Americans who care about the health of our planet, and a huge win for the polluters and the deniers,” said Sara E. Smith, an attorney at Environment Texas. “That said, I am confident that this is only a temporary setback — ultimately the science, the majority will, and bold climate action will win the day.”
At the Williamson County Reagan Dinner on Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott cheered the decision.
“A Texan should care about this decision because, even if they are for environmental controls like that imposed by the EPA, America is a better place if the Constitution is followed,” he said. “Clearly the EPA and the Obama administration violated the Constitution.”
David Porter, chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas operations, said Obama was trying “to promote his own liberal agenda that combats fossil fuels and favors unreliable alternative energy sources. I hope the court continues to realize that this tyrannical intrusion into the free market is costly, illogical and uncalled for.”
The White House, for its part, saw things differently.
“The Clean Power Plan is based on a strong legal and technical foundation, gives states the time and flexibility they need to develop tailored, cost-effective plans to reduce their emissions, and will deliver better air quality, improved public health, clean energy investment and jobs across the country, and major progress in our efforts to confront the risks posed by climate change,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said. “We remain confident that we will prevail on the merits.”
Clean Power Plan
Under the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, Texas utilities would have to reduce their carbon emissions from 240,000 tons in 2012 to 190,000 tons a year by 2030.