Statement of Ranking Member Barbara Boxer
“Implications of the Supreme Court Stay of the Clean Power Plan”
June 9, 2016


This Committee is once again holding a hearing on the Clean Power Plan – the rule that targets carbon pollution from the nation’s biggest source of climate pollution – power plants.  The Clean Power Plan, which was finalized in August 2015, is an historic step forward in the effort to address climate change.

Unchecked climate change poses a threat to the health and safety of children and families.  That is why it is urgent that we take action to reduce dangerous carbon pollution from all sources, including power plants. 

Climate change is happening all around us.  The predictions scientists made about climate change – higher temperatures, more extreme weather events, severe droughts, increased wildfires, decreasing polar ice, and rising sea levels – have become our reality.  Here are just a few examples.

  • 2015 was the hottest year on record, and 15 of the 16 warmest years on record have occurred in the 21st century.
  • Earlier this year, scientists reported that sea levels are rising many times faster than they have in the last 2800 years.
  • The 2015 wildfire season was the costliest on record, with $1.71 billion spent.

The American public understands the need to act.  A League of Conservation Voters poll found that 70% of voters want their state to cooperate and develop a plan to implement these new standards.  And a Yale University poll found 70% of voters support setting strict carbon dioxide emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants to address climate change and improve public health.

And we know that the Clean Power Plan will have significant public health benefits.  By fully implementing the Clean Power Plan, we can avoid:

  • 3,600 premature deaths;
  • 1,700 heart attacks;
  • 90,000 asthma attacks; and
  • 300,000 missed workdays and schooldays by 2030.

We know that the EPA has the authority to regulate carbon pollution.  In its 2007 landmark decision, Massachusetts v. EPA, the U.S. Supreme Court found very clearly that carbon pollution is covered under the Clean Air Act – and it has upheld this authority in two subsequent opinions.

It is disappointing that the Supreme Court, in a narrow 5 to 4 decision, decided to stay implementation of the Clean Power Plan.  But it is important to remember that the Clean Power Plan has not been overruled and will be reviewed on the merits.

Despite this delay, many states are moving toward clean energy because the American people want it.  On April 28th, 14 states, including my state of California, sent a letter asking EPA to continue working with them to provide information and technical assistance related to the Clean Power Plan.  EPA says it will respond to and meet the needs of states that ask for help in a manner that is consistent with the stay.  EPA will continue to provide information, tools, and support states but will not enforce requirements associated with the Clean Power Plan.  This is the right approach and is consistent with the long-standing practice in both Republican and Democratic administrations.

The Clean Power Plan will have its day in court.  Until then, states that understand the threat posed by climate change, see the opportunities for clean energy, and want to protect the health of their citizens should have the right to do so -- and receive EPA’s help.

Those people who want to stop all progress on reducing dangerous carbon pollution are ignoring the will of the American public.  The American people want action because they know that moving to clean energy will be beneficial for the health of our families and our economy.