The US Supreme Court has ruled that Obama’s Clean Power Plan to cut carbon emissions cannot go ahead until all legal challenges are heard.
The court voted 5-4 to grant a request by 27 states and utility companies and businesses to block the plan.
The states, led by coal producer West Virginia and oil producer Texas, and several major business groups in October launched the legal effort seeking to block the Obama administration’s plan.
The states argue that the emissions curbs would have a devastating impact on their economies and infringe state rights.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey described the Supreme Court action on Tuesday as a “historic and unprecedented victory” over the Environmental Protection Agency.
The White House on Tuesday night said it disagreed with the court decision but said it expects the rule will survive the legal challenge.
“We remain confident that we will prevail on the merits,” the White House said, adding that the Environmental Protection Agency will continue to work with states that want to cooperate and that it will continue to take “aggressive steps” to reduce carbon emissions.
The Clean Power Plan – designed to lower carbon emissions from US power plants by 2030 to 32 percent below 2005 levels – has been the cornerstone of the Obama administration’s strategy to combat climate change.
Obama said during his State of the Union address: “Even if the planet wasn’t at stake, even if 2014 wasn’t the warmest year on record – until 2015 turned out to be even hotter – why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future?”
The US and China are the biggest carbon dioxide polluters in the world.
Obama pledged US commitment to leading the fight against climate change at the COP21 conference in Paris in December.
Close to 200 countries adopted the COP21 framework agreement, and are set to start ratifying it from April. There are concerns that if the US does not commit, some of the other big carbon emitting countries may back out too.
Furthermore, with Obama leaving office early next year, the Supreme Court decision raises the possibility that his climate change ambitions may go with him.