The Supreme Court on Tuesday evening put a stop to President Obama's plans to curb carbon emissions while 29 states challenge the law in a lower court.
The split 5-4 decision will be seen as a huge blow to Obama's plan to cement his climate change legacy in the final year of his administration.
State attorneys general who filed the motion to stay the Clean Power Plan on Jan. 26 on behalf of 29 states suing the Obama administration over the regulations that cut power-plant emissions called the decision a "monumental victory."
"Make no mistake – this is a great victory for West Virginia," said West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who is leading the contigent. "We are thrilled that the Supreme Court realized the rule's immediate impact and froze its implementation, protecting workers and saving countless dollars as our fight against its legality continues."
The plan is the central piece of Obama's pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions under a gobal climate change agreement reached in Paris in December. Many scientists blame greenhouse gas emissions for driving manmade climate change.
The Supreme Court order says the four Democratic justices on the panel would have denied the states' request for stay. The motion was sent to Chief Justice John Roberts, who had the discretion to answer the states' application himself or run it by his fellow justices for input before making the decision.
"The application for a stay submitted to the Chief Justice and by him referred to the court is granted," the Tuesday decision reads. The decision adds that Clean Power Plan is stayed until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit makes a decision on the merits of the states' arguments.
The states, with dozens of business groups, are challenging the Clean Power Plan in the appeals court, which denied the states' request for a stay of the regulation in January. The states, which say the climate plan represents a big overreach of the Environmental Protection Agency's legal authority, immediately appealed to the high court.
The appeals court will hear oral arguments on the merits of the states' case on June 2, Morrisey said. "A final ruling from that court might not come for months and without the stay the administration's plan would have caused even more destruction of untold numbers of jobs, skyrocketing electricity bills and the weakening of the nation's electric grid."
Utilities, the coal industry and other groups fighting the regulation applauded the stay.
"The stay is a signal the Supreme Court has serious concerns with the Power Plan. We're optimistic the Power Plan will ultimately be rejected," said Mike Duncan, president and CEO of the pro-coal group American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. The group says the EPA plan would have resulted in the premature closure of coal power plants, resulting in higher electricity costs and risks of power outages.
The Clean Power Plan requires states to cut greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants a third by 2030. It's largely seen as Obama's signature environmental regulation, the success of which is key to his securing a legacy on climate change.
Congress voted last year to block the Clean Power Plan, but Obama vetoed the resolution.
The Environmental Protection Agency is requiring the states to comply with the regulation while the legal challenges are taking place, and some states have begun working on their plans. States were to start filing their plans or file for an extension by September.
"Left unstayed, the power plan will force massive and irreversible changes in terms of state policies and resources, power plant shutdowns, and investments in wind and solar power," the states wrote to the Supreme Court on Friday in response to the EPA's argument to the court on why the regulation should not be halted.