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What Scalia’s death means for Obama’s Clean Power Plan

In this June 17, 1986 file photo, President Ronald Reagan speaks at a news briefing at the White House in Washington, where he announced the nomination of Antonin Scalia, left, to the Supreme Court as a result of Chief Justice Warren E. Burger's resignation. William Rehnquist is at right. On Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, the U.S. Marshals Service confirmed that Justice Scalia has died at the age of 79.

Ron Edmonds / AP Photo

In this June 17, 1986 file photo, President Ronald Reagan speaks at a news briefing at the White House in Washington, where he announced the nomination of Antonin Scalia, left, to the Supreme Court as a result of Chief Justice Warren E. Burger's resignation. William Rehnquist is at right. On Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, the U.S. Marshals Service confirmed that Justice Scalia has died at the age of 79.

The sudden and unexpected death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia gives environmentalists hope that Obama’s landmark effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has a fighting chance in the courts.

“It changes my opinion dramatically,” said Ann Carlson, Shirley Shapiro Professor of Environmental Law at UCLA.

Last week, Scalia, along with four fellow conservatives on the Supreme Court shocked legal experts like Carlson, as well as environmentalists and the coal industry, by ordering a temporary stay to the Clean Power Plan.  The court said legal challenges to Obama’s climate change regulations had to get settled first. Twenty-seven states and the coal industry sued the EPA over the new rules.

The unprecedented 5-4 decision signaled to everyone, for the first time, that the plan may not hold up to scrutiny by the Supreme court.

But Scalia’s death now splits the court evenly between liberals and conservatives, which could end up tying the court’s hands. Any 4-4 decision by the Supreme Court means the lower court decision would prevail.

Ann Carlson, an environmental law professor at UCLA, says the fate of the Clean Power Plan may now be in the hands of the liberal-leaning D.C. Circuit Court.

“That means that the odds, to me, of the Clean Power Plan being up held go from maybe under 25 percent to over 75 percent,” said Carlson.

But she says a D.C. circuit decision in favor of the Clean Power Plan is not a slam-dunk. And those odds could change depending on whether Obama gets to appoint a new justice, or on who wins the White House.

In the meantime, Governor Tom Wolf says the state will continue its planning process aimed at implementing the Clean Power Plan, over the objections of state Republicans.

Comments

  • crystalpoint

    Wouldn’t you know it, Wolf and his “radical environmentalist” did not waste any time in jumping on the wagon to overturn Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s decision to curb the EPA’S rules to kill the coal fired power plants! To Wolf and all cronies at the EPA, and environmental groups, “Cant you let Scalia rest in peace”? His decision was based upon, not only the Federal court, but the consensus of the majority of Americans who know without a doubt, That America can not at this time, afford wasting “Trillions” of dollars on a worthless cause!

    To Governor Wolf, and his gang,, don’t count your chickens before they hatch! Are all of you aware that presently there are no plans on the table at this time, for building large scale Nuclear power plants that could replace those “coal fired power plants”, that would be taken off line, that produce electricity for all of us? Further, it would take (20) years or more to build them !

    In summary, Obama’s plans to end Coal Fired Power plants, did not make “cost effective”common sense, based upon faulty data used to conclude that burning coal in the above instance was causing Global Warming!

    Finally, for that matter, during Obama’s presidency, over the last seven years none
    of his “executive orders” that he has signed while he held office, ever benefited any of us, i.e the American people!

    Ray P. Smith, Sr.

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