Local leaders respond to Supreme Court's temporary freeze of Obama's Clean Power Plan

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - While those on each side of this debate do not agree on the actual decision of the Supreme Court, they do both say putting President Obama's Clean Power Plan on hold came as a surprise.

"We were not expecting this, but it is something our coal industry greatly needed. This allows us to kind of take a step back and put our strategies related to the President's clean power plan and how can we defend Kentucky coal because this issue, Clean Power Plan, really takes away our market," said Bill Bissett, President of the Kentucky Coal Association.

Sarah Lynn Cunningham, with Sierra Club said, "It is definitely disappointing. It is unprecedented, but we don't think it is the last say and the Supreme Court even said it is a temporary stay."

Halting the plan that calls for reduction of carbon dioxide emissions at existing power plants by about one third by 2030. A plan that more than two dozen states including Kentucky filed lawsuits to stop.

"We have a lot more work to do, but it's a great first step. I think it shows that what they've done is unconstitutional, it's unfair to our industry and the Supreme Court is listening," said Bissett.

A statement those on the other side do not agree with, saying they believe the only impact the temporary freeze will have is simply a delay in the process moving forward.

"Don't forget this same Supreme Court has three times ruled that the EPA must regulate carbon pollution per the Clean Air Act. So I don't think they are going to win on this battle," said Cunningham.

Bissett says the positive impact on coal might not be seen right a way, "It's not going to put people back to work today, but it can make our market viable in the future, which really is critical to us because all our market is doing is shrinking, which puts coal miners out of work."

A federal appeals court in Washington last month refused to put the plan on hold. That lower court is not likely to issue a ruling on the legality of the plan until months after it hears oral arguments begin on June 2.

Any decision will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court, meaning resolution of the legal fight is not likely to happen until after Obama leaves office.

Compliance with the new rules isn't required until 2022, but states must submit their plans to the Environmental Protection Administration by September or seek an extension.

Many states opposing the plan depend on economic activity tied to such fossil fuels as coal, oil and gas. They argued that the plan oversteps federal authority to restrict carbon emissions, and that electricity providers would have to spend billions of dollars to begin complying with a rule that might end up being overturned.

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