By Lawrence Hurley and Valerie Volcovici
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. federal court that will weigh whether to block the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan will not make a decision until after United Nations climate change talks conclude in mid-December, according to a court order issued on Thursday.
The EPA’s Clean Power Plan is a key measure to help the United States meet the greenhouse gas reduction target it pledged ahead of the United Nations climate change summit in Paris that will run from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11.
But once the Clean Power Plan went into effect on Oct. 23, 26 states and more than a dozen industry and business groups filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to block it, citing its economic harm.
Thursday's order from D.C. Circuit said the EPA has until Dec. 3 to respond to the petition by states and industry groups. Those groups will then have until Dec. 23 to respond to the EPA, meaning the court is unlikely to make a decision for another several weeks.
This means that the Obama administration, which has said the United States will play a leadership role at the Paris climate negotiations, will not risk the possibility of having its signature climate policy blocked at the U.N. summit.
Opponents of the Obama administration’s climate change agenda, such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, have tried to undermine the United States’ role in climate talks by warning other countries that its key policies are on shaky legal footing.
The Clean Power Plan aims to slash power sector emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Marguerita Choy)