President Barack Obama's attempt to limit toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants was issued a blow by the Supreme Court on Feb. 9, when the nation's high court issued a stay while the case awaits review in a federal appeals court, according to a 2016 New York Times report. 

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While the decision is just a step in the Clean Power Plan case, which is expected to move back to the Supreme Court after an appeals court hears the objections of 29 states, corporations and industry groups, the 5-4 vote is unprecedented. The justices "had never before granted a request to halt a regulation before review by a federal appeals court," the Times reported.

The White House's global warming initiative was cited during negotiations of the 2015 Paris climate change accord, which would make all nations alter emissions levels. The Obama administration made it clear it expected the initiative would eventually succeed. “The administration will continue to take aggressive steps to make forward progress to reduce carbon emissions,” the Times quoted the White House as saying.

Harvard law professor Jody Freeman said of the ruling, “It’s a stunning development.” The former environmental legal counsel to the Obama administration also told the Times that “the order certainly indicates a high degree of initial judicial skepticism from five justices on the court.”

Another legal expert, Bruce Nilles of the Sierra Club, put the ruling in perspective in the Washington Post as “unprecedented for the Supreme Court to stay a rule at this point in litigation. They do this in death-penalty cases.”

But the Post also notes that considering how long legal cases can take, the issue may not be resolved until Obama is gone from office. Which indicates, the Post writes, that the next president could play a pivotal role in how the nation's climate policy either takes shape or unravels.