Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.
A federal appeals court has denied a request from Texas and other states to block President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, leaving the controversial climate change rules in place as a legal challenge winds through the courts.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia wrote Thursday that the states — joined by the coal industry — “have not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay.”
The two-page order was an early victory for Obama and others who support the state-by-state effort to combat climate change by slashing carbon emissions from power plants — largely through a shift from coal-fired power to natural gas and renewable sources.
Texas and West Virginia are leading a 27-state coalition challenging the plan, arguing that it could push electricity costs too high and threaten reliability. Beyond declining to immediately halt the rules, the court on Thursday set oral arguments in the case for June 2.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton vowed to continue the fight.
“Regardless of the court’s ruling today, the Obama Administration’s Power Plan not only remains bad policy but is also still unlawful,” Paxton said Thursday in a statement. “This ill-advised example of federal overreach will kill jobs, result in higher electric bills and create a significantly less reliable electric grid for all consumers.”
Environmentalists, meanwhile, cheered the ruling and called on Texas leaders to create a plan to meet the state's carbon-cutting target under the rules.
"It's time for Gov. Abbott and state leaders to quit horsing around with the Clean Power Plan,” Luke Metzger, director of the group Environment Texas, said in a statement. “Today's ruling means we need to get moving in developing a plan to cut dangerous carbon pollution from Texas' fleet of dirty coal-fired power plants.”
The Clean Power Plan, Obama’s most ambitious effort to combat climate change, requires states to slash carbon emissions from power plants however they see fit — accelerating a shift from coal that started years ago. Carbon dioxide is a potent greenhouse gas that directly contributes to climate change.
Texas must cut an annual average of 51 million tons of carbon to reach its federal target, a reduction of about 21 percent from 2012 emissions. The mandate rankles Republicans, but proponents of the rules — backed by early analyses — suggest that market forces and existing policies alone will push Texas most of the way toward its target.
As it stands, states have until Sept. 6 to submit a final plan or apply for an extension.
Texas leaders have refused to confirm whether they will create a carbon-cutting plan in case they lose in court. If the state flouts the rule, the EPA will impose its own plan on the state.