The centerpiece of President Obama‘s climate change agenda goes to court on Tuesday, where it will face challenges from 28 states, the coal industry and more than 100 other groups. But in a broad sense, it’s the opening salvo of a fierce legal battle that will decide his legacy on global warming.
Oral arguments in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals are the beginning of the legal challenges, not the end, because the case is expected to go on to the Supreme Court, which stayed Obama’s Clean Power Plan in February.
The power plan, which the Environmental Protection Agency made law a year ago, orders states to cut greenhouse gas emissions by a third by 2030 to fight global warming. It is the centerpiece of Obama’s climate change agenda and the cornerstone of his effort to meet U.S. obligations under the 2015 Paris climate deal to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels worldwide.
Judges this week will be asked to rule that the EPA misapplied its authority to regulate existing power plants by seeking to regulate states, and that it went beyond congressional intent and violated the Constitution.
The constitutional claims may be the ticket to a Supreme Court date next year. It agreed with state and industry challengers on Feb. 9 to halt the EPA rule while awaiting a decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which might take until next year. State attorneys general and the coal industry say the stay proves the justices agree with the merits of the case.
Meanwhile, the EPA and its supporters say the Supreme Court’s action implies nothing about the strength of their arguments. The court stayed the plan knowing it would come back for judgment later, observers say. But first it has to go through the federal appellate court.