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Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to decide whether to block key aspects of the Obama administration's plan aimed at cutting power plant and factory emissions of greenhouse gases.

The justices said they will review a unanimous federal appeals court ruling that upheld the government's unprecedented regulation of carbon dioxide and five other heat-trapping gases.

The question is whether the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate automobile emissions of greenhouses gases as air pollutants, which stemmed from a 2007 Supreme Court ruling, also applies to power plants and factories.

The court's decision essentially puts on trial a small but critical piece of President Barack Obama's toolbox to tackle global warming - a requirement that companies expanding existing industrial facilities or building new ones that would increase overall pollution must evaluate ways to reduce the carbon they release, as well.

The administration's plan hinges on the high court's 2007 ruling in Massachusetts vs. EPA which said the EPA has the authority, under the Clean Air Act, to limit emissions of greenhouse gases from vehicles. The administration has used the ruling to extend its authority beyond automobiles to develop national standards for large stationary sources.

Also Tuesday, the court:

-Seemed prepared to uphold a Michigan voter-approved ban on taking race into account in college admissions. The court heard arguments over a 2006 change to the state constitution to prohibit the University of Michigan and other state schools from any consideration of race when they decide whom to admit.

-Rejected California's appeal of a lower-court order that could force the state to release thousands of California prison inmates to reduce overcrowding.