The White House disagreed Tuesday night with the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision to halt the administration's landmark climate rules for power plants.
"We disagree with the Supreme Court's decision to stay the Clean Power Plan while litigation proceeds," the White House said in a statement Tuesday evening, arguing that the emissions reduction plan for states is based on a strong legal basis.
It 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 the risks posed by climate change," the White House added.
The Supreme Court decision halted the plan until a federal appeals court rules on the merits of arguments by 29 states and dozens of industry groups opposing the emission regulation. The Clean Power Plan requires states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a third by 2030. Critics argue that the plan would raise electricity prices, while increasing the risk of power outages with no significant reduction in carbon emissions. The states also argue that the plan is unconstitutional and greatly exceeds the EPA's authority.
Many scientists say greenhouse gas emissions, primarily from carbon dioxide, are causing the Earth's climate to rise, resulting in severe weather, drought and flooding. The administration has made the Clean Power Plan the centerpiece of the president's climate change agenda to reduce emissions through domestic and international efforts.
Despite Tuesday's decision by the high court, the White House says it remains confident "we will prevail on the merits" when the litigation in argued in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in June. A decision, however, may not come until President Obama has left office.
White House officials on a late Tuesday night call said the court's decision went against its own precedent in ruling on a regulation before a court ruled on the merits.
The officials, speaking on background, downplayed the Supreme Court decision as "procedural," with no effect on the rule's implementation.
"While we disagree with the Supreme Court decision, this is a temporary procedural decision and does nothing to affect our confidence on the legal soundness of this rule," one White House official said.
"Even while the litigation proceeds, EPA has indicated it will work with states that choose to continue plan development and will prepare the tools those states will need," the White House said in its statement. A major group of governor-appointed energy officials, state utility and air regulators had begun assembling in Washington Tuesday to begin a two-day workshop on Clean Power Plan compliance when the decision came down from the high court.
It is not sure how the decision will affect the state regulators' planning. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will address the state officials Thursday at the opening of the workshop.
"At the same time, the administration will continue to take aggressive steps to make forward progress to reduce carbon emissions," the White House said.
"We're disappointed the rule has been stayed, but you can't stay climate change and you can't stay climate action. Millions of people are demanding we confront the risks posed by climate change. And we will do just that. We believe strongly in this rule and we will continue working with our partners to address carbon pollution," said EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison.
White House officials also said they weren't worried that the stay would affect other countries' commitments to the global deal secured in Paris in December to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They said it will not keep countries from signing the Paris agreement in April. The Clean Power Plan is the centerpiece of the administration's plan to meet its obligations under the deal.
They also feel confident that the rule would survive even under a new administration. One official on the call said, the Clean Power Plan "goes with the grain of where the U.S. power sector is going irrespective of where the political winds are blowing."
Legal observers say the appeals court decision may not come until after Obama has left office, and regardless of how the court rules, the challenge is likely to go to the Supreme Court. Any GOP administration is expected to stall implementation of the Clean Power Plan.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell applauded the Supreme Court's decision.
The Republican from the coal state of Kentucky said the decision is a sign that the administration's climate rule suffers from legal flaws.
"Today's Supreme Court order to halt those regulations — reg
He recalled from last year his push for state governors to hold off on submitting plans required under "the president's regressive federal energy regulations until courts could determine whether the regulations were even legal."