Paxton halts compliance with energy plan in wake of Scalia death

(Credit: Department of Energy.)

The unexpected death of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia delivers an air of uncertainty in the Texas fight to stop the federal government’s clean energy power plan.


Attorney General Ken Paxton said Texas has halted all plans to comply with the plan after the Supreme Court issued a stay on it last week. The state opposes the presidential executive action that implemented the plan and supports a full Congressional debate on the issue, he said.


“We aren’t moving until this case is solved,” he said in a conference call on Thursday and added the legal battle was not an indictment for or against climate change.


The stay was approved with a rising split vote. It was put on hold until the Supreme Court rules or refuses to get involved. As a result, the EPA states do not have to submit emission reduction plans or request extensions on the Sept. 6 deadline. The case continues to make its way through lower courts. Before his death, Scalia joined Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito in the stay. They did not explain their decision.


Dissenting were the four Democratic appointees: Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.


The Supreme Court could change if Obama is able to name a new justice before November. Republicans have made public calls to thwart that attempt if a nominee comes before them. They point to long-standing political protocol that calls for a president to forgo justice appointments during the last six months of his administration.


The White House has said the president will name a successor. Hillary Clinton told the Los Angeles Times that the protocol has been broken before. Anthony Kennedy was confirmed during President Ronald Reagan’s final year.


Within hours of Scalia’s death, Paxton issued condolences that did not directly address the effect Scalia’s death would have on the several fights that Texas has in the Supreme Court.


“America today lost one of the finest jurists our country has known in my lifetime, a powerful voice for liberty and a passionate defender of the freedoms guaranteed to all Americans by the Constitution,” he stated. “His passing is a deep loss for our nation. Angela and I will keep his wife, Maureen, his children and his grandchildren in our prayers.”


Last week, before Scalia’s death in Marfa on Saturday, Paxton joined West Virginia attorney general Patrick Morrisey in a celebration conference call to praise the U.S. Supreme Court for its stay against the plan. The plan calls for power plants to reduce carbon pollution and creates a federal model for states to implement.


They said the stay was historic and showed the court noted serious legal concerns about the plan. Twenty-nine states have banned together to fight the federal government and Obama’s executive action.


Morrisey said on Thursday that the stay showed a propensity for the court to side with the states, which he said followed the stay on the water act. It halted a progressive advancement of federal overreach.


“This rule represents a radical transformation of American energy policy and has a sweeping impact on the American way of life,” Morrisey said. “The EPA is seeking to transform itself from being an environmental regulator into a central energy planning authority for the states.”

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