RBG’s replacement could undermine the most important climate ruling

If US president Donald Trump succeeds in replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court this year, one of the early cases the new justice is likely to hear could be pivotal in the climate debate. And if the Court rules in favor of the Trump administration, the decision would blunt one of the government’s sharpest tools for fighting climate change.

Next month, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals will hear a suit brought last year by a group of mostly Democrat-led states against the administration’s effort to roll back Obama-era regulations on carbon emissions from power plants. Under the Obama regulations, states would face a limit on power-sector emissions, and be able to choose from a variety of options on how to meet the limit. For many states, the rules mean retiring coal-fired power plants and replacing them with natural gas and renewables.

The Trump administration’s replacement regulation scraps this kind of source switching, and merely requires individual coal plants to boost their efficiency. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s own analysis, the new regulation will reduce carbon emissions by just 11 million tons by 2030, compared to 415 million tons under the Obama plan.

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