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D.C. Circuit Hears Clean Power Plan Appeal

September 29, 2016

On Tuesday, September 27, the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. heard arguments for the appeal of the Clean Power Plan, an EPA-issued regulation designed to abate power-plant carbon-dioxide emissions. The regulation, announced last August by the Obama Administration, requires significant reductions from 2005 levels by 2025 (26-28 percent) and 2030 (32 percent). President Obama hailed the regulation as a vehicle for combating climate change on a global level: if the U.S. led the fight against climate change, other countries would follow. Over 190 nations did agree on a U.N. climate change plan last December in Paris. In February, however, The Supreme Court put the plan on hold, with a 5-4 vote just before Justice Antonin Scalia passed away. A significant portion of the country opposes the regulation. Up to this point, 24 states have sued the EPA. They worry that the rule will hurt their economies and increase electricity costs for consumers.

But the case nuanced, and deserves proper attention. The size of the panel indicates how important a decision on the regulation is. Instead of the normal three-judge panel, ten heard the appeal. They realize why the Obama Administration proceeded on climate change. Congress has not taken any action, and a past Supreme Court ruling has given EPA the ability to regulate carbon emissions. Indeed, addressing climate change is necessary. The judges, however, are concerned about the whether the regulation is constitutional. They fear the EPA has too much power in regulating carbon-dioxide emissions. Some of the judges want Congress to take charge and appoint an agency to head the country’s climate change efforts. The Circuit may end up deciding the case if the Supreme Court votes evenly at the next juncture or abstains from reviewing it.