February 26, 2016
When it comes to the Clean Power Plan, the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia may have dramatically elevated a lower court’s importance – at least in the short term.
When Supreme Court justices ruled to freeze the Obama administration’s climate rule earlier this month, many viewed it as a sign that it would ultimately be rejected by the high court according to a February 19, 2016 report from Energy & Environment Publishing.
But with the possibility now that the court could split 4-4 on the case — upholding a lower court’s opinion — all eyes are on what’s happening in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. “In many respects, the death of Justice Scalia puts all the action now in the D.C. Circuit, even though the case is stayed by the Supreme Court order,” Ann Carlson, an environmental law professor at UCLA, said today on a conference call.
It remains unclear which political party will ultimately appoint Scalia’s successor to the bench, but environmental scholars and advocates have been busy gaming out what all possible scenarios could mean for the fate of the administration’s signature climate change rule, which aims to slash greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
For now, that means scrutinizing the landscape in the D.C. Circuit, which has scheduled oral arguments in the case for early June.
The panel of three judges picked to hear the case include two Democratic appointees and one Republican appointee. “EPA, I think, has got to be feeling pretty relieved at the judges who are on the D.C. Circuit panel,” Carlson said.
Legal experts are looking ahead to determine what could occur depending on which party clinches the White House.
“By the time the Clean Power Plan gets up to the Supreme Court, assuming that the Supreme Court decides to review any decision by the D.C. Circuit, we will probably have a ninth justice of the Supreme Court,” Carlson said, noting that a Democratic appointee would be more likely to swing the court in favor of upholding the Clean Power Plan.
“You could say that the election is really what’s going to decide the fate of the Clean Power Plan,” she said. “That’s assuming that President Obama does not succeed in getting his Supreme Court justice confirmed.
What this means to you
The death of Justice Antonin Scalia puts all the Clean Power Plan action now in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, even though the case is stayed by the Supreme Court order.
MIRATECH can help
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