Coal-fired smokestack

Coal-fired power plants like this one in Utah are the greatest contributors of carbon pollution in the U.S. Harmful emissions that drive climate change would be reduced under the Clean Power Plan. Photo courtesy iStockphoto

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily blocked implementation of the Obama administration’s chief effort to combat climate change by reducing U.S. carbon emissions.

The initiative — the Clean Power Plan — aims to lower carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants by 32 percent by the year 2030. Power plants are the leading contributor to climate change and are responsible for the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States.

Health advocates expressed disappointment with the justices’ decision, which stays the plan until a lower court rules on a legal challenge to the initiative.

“Climate change is one of the leading public health threats we face,” APHA Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, MD, said in a statement. “The Clean Power Plan puts us on a course to dramatically reduce its harmful health effects, lessen air pollution and mitigate risk of asthma, injury and cardiovascular disease, among other serious dangers exacerbated by climate change.

“Simply put, unnecessarily delaying the Clean Power Plan puts public health at risk.”

The administration expressed confidence in its legal arguments and pledged that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will work with states that choose to move forward with developing plans during the interim.

According to Trust for America’s Health Interim President and CEO Rich Hamburg, “The Supreme Court has already previously ruled in favor of EPA’s endangerment finding that carbon pollution poses a threat to human health and therefore is subject to the federal bipartisan Clean Air Act.”

Hamburg underscored that TFAH believes the Clean Power Plan “is on firm legal foundation.”