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Court Puts Clean Power Plan On Hold, Uncertainty Ensues

The Deseret Power Coooperative's Bonanza power plant near Vernal, Utah
Dan Bammes
Deseret Power's electric-generation plant in Utah helped form new regulations on emissions blamed for climate change.

Some Utah agencies and politicians are applauding a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to put a hold on the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

Utah’s Deseret Powerelectric cooperative and the state of Utah oppose new regulations targeting the pollution blamed for climate change, and both joined other states and organizations in requesting the stay.

But, now that the U.S. Supreme Court has put the rules on hold, Rocky Mountain Power and state environmental regulators are left in limbo, since they’re already developing strategies for greenhouse gas emissions.

“If they don’t have their plan ready to go, they take a big chance of having the federal government take over and prepare a plan that gives a lot less discretion to Utah,” says Arnold Reitze, a University of Utah law professor, an expert on clean-air laws and member of the state Air Quality Board.

He blames the uncertainty on the fact that the Obama administration has been left to use the clean-air regulation to carry out energy policy. “And it shouldn’t have been,” he says, “but for the fact that Congress is inept and incapable of solving any problem, let alone environmental problems.”

Reitze doesn’t want to try to predict what will ultimately happen, and he says the next president will probably be the one left to deal with the fallout. But he points out that it was a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that cleared the way for federal environmental regulators to apply the Clean Air Act to power plants, the nation’s biggest producer of climate pollution. In fact, the case involved a Utah power plant operated by Deseret Power.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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