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The Final Word by Chuck Swann
We strive to keep these columns as apolitical as possible because we know we are serving an audience with a wide spectrum of political persuasions. But once in a while, a political topic seems to impinge directly on the forest products, pulp and paper industries. Today that topic is the question of who will replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court bench. That person will decide the fate of the Obama administration's carbon rules for power plants. We have long predicted a trickle-down from the regulation of large utility power plants to smaller coal burners such as those in many pulp and paper mills.

At the moment, the court is evenly divided, 4 to 4, between a liberal leaning quartet of justices and a foursome of a more conservative bent. If the Clean Power Plan comes before the court's present configuration, the plan will survive on a tie vote. The seating of a conservative in the vacancy on the court likely would doom the plan. Conversely, the seating of a new justice with a more liberal outlook probably would insure its survival.

On a 5 to 4 vote in February, the Supreme Court froze the Clean Power Plan until litigation that will come before the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in June is resolved. Less than a week after this Supreme Court action, Antonin Scalia, leader of the conservative wing of the court, died. Days later, conferees at the Conservative Political Action Conference vowed to place "another Scalia" on the court. Whether and how they could do so may depend on the outcome of the presidential election in November. In the meantime, Congressional Republicans have declared that they will not even consider any nomination by President Obama. They maintain that a nomination should come only from the next president.

If the Republican majority in Congress is steadfast in its refusal to consider an Obama nomination, the matter must wait for the inauguration of a new president in early 2017. If the new president is a Republican, the Clean Power Plan very well may be scuttled by the vote of a Scalia successor. If the new president is a Democrat, the balance of power on the court may be altered, and the CPP probably will live on as the law of the land. Stay tuned!

Chuck Swann is the senior editor of Paperitalo Publications. He can be reached by email at chuck.swann@taii.com.

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