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US Supreme Court Suspends Obama's Carbon Emissions Cuts

FILE - Smoke billows from a coal-fired power plant. The Supreme Court issued an order Tuesday saying new guidelines on carbon emissions must be suspended until legal challenges are resolved.
FILE - Smoke billows from a coal-fired power plant. The Supreme Court issued an order Tuesday saying new guidelines on carbon emissions must be suspended until legal challenges are resolved.

The U.S. Supreme Court has put on hold President Obama's plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions from the nation's power plants.

Obama announced the regulations in August as a way to fight climate change, saying states had until September 2016 to come up with their own plans to meet a target of reducing emissions by 32 percent below 2005 levels.

But a group of 27 states balked at the Clean Power Plan and filed a lawsuit, saying it amounted to an overstep by the Environmental Protection Agency and would unnecessarily hurt businesses and cost jobs.

The Supreme Court issued an order Tuesday saying the new guidelines must be suspended until the legal challenges are resolved. A lower court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, is due to hear arguments in the case in June, and the Supreme Court itself could end up considering the matter later.

Texas and West Virginia, which are two of the leading carbon-producing states, led the legal challenge. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called the Supreme Court's action a "major victory" for people who feared losing their jobs or seeing energy prices rise.

"The Obama Administration clearly exceeded its authority in imposing this plan, which would cost taxpayers and consumers alike hard-earned money in exchange for less reliable service," Paxton said.

West Virginia's Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said the ruling protects workers while "saving countless dollars."

The White House said in August its projections showed the plan would save average households $85 dollars a year on their electric bills by 2030. In addition to cutting carbon emissions, the program would increase the amount of energy that is produced by renewable sources such as solar and wind.

In a statement Monday, spokesman Josh Earnest said the White House disagrees with the Supreme Court order and remains confident it will prevail in the legal battle.

"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 risks posed by climate change," he said.

Environmental groups also expressed their support for taking further action against climate change following the court's ruling.

"Tonight's Supreme Court decision has delayed the implementation of the Clean Power Plan while we are running out of time to combat climate change," said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth Action.

Bob Perciasepe, president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, said there is "no reason to halt progress and innovation" while waiting for a resolution of the court cases.

"Whether or not the court ultimately upholds this particular rule, the need to cut carbon emissions will remain, and states need to figure out the most cost-effective ways to do that," he said. "It's in everyone's interest that states keep at it, because whether it's the Clean Power Plan or some other policy, they'll need smart strategies to get the job done."

Even before the president issued the new regulations, power companies across the U.S. had already begun converting their energy generation away from coal to rely more on natural gas, solar and wind.

As a result, carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants fell by 13 percent nationwide between 2011 and 2013, according to government data.