Court agrees to hold off ruling on carbon restrictions


WASHINGTON (AP) — At the Trump administration’s request, a federal appeals court agreed Friday to postpone a ruling on lawsuits challenging Obama-era restrictions on carbon emissions.

The Environmental Protection Agency had asked the court to put a hold on the case shortly after President Donald Trump signed an executive order vowing to roll back the Clean Power Plan. Trump has called climate change a hoax, disputing the overwhelming consensus of scientists that the world is warming and that man-made carbon emissions are primarily to blame.

The plan championed by President Barack Obama was challenged by a coalition of states and industry groups that profit or benefit from the continued burning of coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels. The regulations sought to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants by about one-third by 2030, a goal in line with the United States’ commitment under the Paris climate accords.

Trump has pledged to reverse decades of decline in a U.S. coal industry under threat from such cleaner sources of energy as natural gas, wind turbines and solar farms. He has also said he plans to “renegotiate” the global climate treaty signed by nearly 200 countries in 2015.

Ten judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments in the case last year and could have issued a ruling at any time. Friday’s order from the court asks the parties whether, after a 60-day postponement, the issue should be sent back to the EPA rather than postponed.

That outcome would be a huge blow to environmental groups, who had vehemently opposed the request for delay and urged the court to rule on the merits of the case, despite the change in administration.

Vickie Patton, a lawyer for the Environmental Defense Fund, vowed that progress toward a clean energy future wouldn’t be stopped by “the litigation tactics of polluters.”

“In red, purple and blue states across our country, Americans are working together to reduce health-harming pollution while creating jobs and shared prosperity,” Patton said.

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Follow Associated Press environmental writer Michael Biesecker at www.Twitter.com/mbieseck