In a highly unusual move, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to issue a stay on implementation of the Clean Power Plan. The federal rule, which was issued by the U.S. EPA last summer, aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the U.S. power sector. The court’s order halts the Clean Power Plan from taking effect until a legal challenge to the rule filed by more than two dozen states and many fossil fuel interests is resolved.
The decision was an unprecedented procedural ruling – not a determination about the merits or validity of the rule – that temporarily pushes the pause button until the larger legal issues are considered and resolved. In fact, in its one page order, the Court did not provide its reasons for issuing the stay. According to an article in the New York Times, the Supreme Court has never before granted a request to halt a regulation before its review by a federal appeals court. The justices themselves did not take long to consider the details of this complicated case. Final legal briefs from the parties defending the rule were filed on Thursday afternoon; the court’s position was announced the following Tuesday.
The broader legal case about the validity of the Clean Power Plan rule is expected to move forward on an expedited timeline, but even so it could take as long as two years to reach a final resolution. The DC Circuit Court is scheduled to hear the case on June 2, 2016. It will likely issue a ruling by the fall of 2016. Regardless of that outcome, the issue is expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court issues another stay and takes the case, it could rule as early as the spring of 2017 or as late as the following spring. Only then could the EPA move forward to enforce the rule, if it is ultimately upheld.
Early reactions news from KFTC members and allies across the country made it clear that people working for a just transition and climate justice are troubled but undaunted by this decision.
“I’m so glad we called this part of KFTC’s work ‘Empower Kentucky,” because that’s exactly what we are doing, and what we continue to do,” reflected KFTC’s chairperson Dana Beasley Brown shortly after the news broke on Tuesday evening.
“Our work has to go on,” said Lexington KFTC member Chris Woolery. “Energy efficiency and renewable energy are no-regrets solutions that literally pay for themselves. That’s the direction the world is moving. That’s where jobs are booming. And that’s the kind of leadership Kentuckians want. But we can’t wait for our leaders. We have to move on without them.”
The day after the court ruling, the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet announced it was suspending plans to hold public hearings this spring about ways Kentucky might comply with the Clean Power Plan. In contrast, KFTC’s public engagement process will ramp up this spring, including public meetings in each congressional district.
“This gives us more time to build an even better Empower Kentucky plan and keep pushing forward,” reflected Steve Wilkins of Berea. “Unfortunately, some states like Kentucky may take this as an excuse to sit on their hands and do nothing. If so, we’ll just keep falling further and further behind. The gap will just grow wider between us and leading states that are making smart investments in clean energy. It seems nobody in a position of power has a vision for a new Kentucky. With a few exceptions, they are all looking backwards. We deserve better.”
In many ways, the court ruling doesn’t change the important work in front of us here in Kentucky. KFTC members already knew that making meaningful progress on clean energy will require long-term, creative, and determined organizing to change the conversation and build political will. In fact, that’s what the Empower Kentucky project is all about.
In announcing the project last fall, KFTC member Elizabeth Sanders said, “It won’t be easy to transform the ways we generate and use energy in Kentucky. Our economic, energy and political systems have long been shaped by fossil fuels, especially coal … We will not wait for our politicians to do the right thing … We are Kentuckians. We are our best hope for change. And together we will write a plan ourselves to make our communities more livable, strengthen our economy and support a just transition while meeting or exceeding the Clean Power Plan’s goals for cutting climate pollution.”
Empower Kentucky will take a major step forward in April, when KFTC will host a series of community conversations in each congressional district. These forums are an opportunity for Kentuckians to learn and share ideas about the energy future we want to see. Public input from those meetings – along with additional ideas gathered through an on-line survey, interviews and listening sessions – will help inform KFTC’s Empower Kentucky plan.
A schedule of the April events, which are open to the public, will be announced soon.
Members gathered all over the state, from Madison County to Whitesburg to Covington to Lexington, last night to watch, process, and come up with action plans to push for adequate funding for health care and preserving kynect and Medicaid expansion, access to higher ed, protecting the arts, and community health.
A year after the Vision Smoketown survey report was released, largely the same Jefferson County Economic Justice team is putting together a report on the Smoketown Walk Your Block project launched in April 2015.
KFTC Chairperson Dana Beasley Brown opened the first We Are Kentuckians rally in Frankfort by sharing a vision of healthy communities, good jobs, the best health care, fairness, racial justice and a healthy environment across Kentucky.
“Our collective voice is so important in this political landscape – the voice of real people. We’re churning our dreams – you and me – with people all over our commonwealth. And we have the solutions that can make them a reality,” Beasley Brown told the crowd of 200 gathered in the capitol rotunda on January 5, the first day of the 2016 General Assembly.
Let’s start the new year off with a declaration at our Capitol!
We have a shared vision for Kentucky. We have momentum, with raising the wage in Lexington and restoring voting rights. Now is the time for us to work even harder together, to grow stronger, and build new power.
Be in Frankfort on January 5th to shout our vision for a better Kentucky.
Central Kentucky KFTC Chapter members are still celebrating a big victory in Lexington. On November 19 the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government voted 9-6 to raise the minimum wage in Fayette County from $7.25 to $10.10 over a period of three years.
The chapter had been working on this issue for nearly a year by lobbying council members, cosponsoring and attending rallies, speaking at council meetings, writing and calling council members, and writing op-eds and letters to the editor, among other strategies.
This victory is significant not only because it will affect an estimated 31,300 workers, according to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, but also because it makes Lexington the second city in Kentucky and only the third city in the South to raise the minimum wage.
Janet Tucker, a long-time KFTC member, former KFTC chair, and co-chair of the Working Families Campaign is excited about the victory. She first brought the issue of raising the minimum wage to the chapter.
“This was a tremendous victory for thousands of hard-working people in Lexington!”
“This was a tremendous victory for thousands of hard-working people in Lexington!” Tucker said. ”Much thanks goes out to the many people, including KFTC members, who worked on this for months, to Jennifer Messotti who championed this bill, and to Steve Kay and all members of council who voted for this bill. We realize this is not a living wage and there is still much work to be done. The Lexington Working Families Campaign will continue to work equity here in Central Kentucky.”