Obama to announce controversial emissions limit on power plants
The Obama administration is set to announce a rule Monday to limit carbon emissions in thousands of fossil-fuel burning plants across the country, a cornerstone of President Obama’s climate-change agenda and his first-term promise to reduce such emissions by 17 percent by 2020.
The Environmental Protection Agency will ask existing plants to cut pollution by 30 percent by 2030, according to people familiar with the proposal who shared the details with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, since they have not been officially released.
The draft rule, which sidesteps Congress, will go into effect in June 2016, following a one-year comment period. States will then be responsible for executing the rule with some flexibility.
They are expected to be allowed to require power plants to make changes such as switching from coal to natural gas or enact other programs to reduce demand for electricity and produce more energy from renewable sources.
They also can set up pollution-trading markets as some states already have done to offer more flexibility in how plants cut emissions.
If a state refuses to create a plan, the EPA can make its own.
Without waiting to see what Obama proposes, governors in Kansas, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia have already signed laws directing their environmental agencies to develop their own carbon-emission plans. Similar measures recently passed in Missouri and are pending in the Louisiana and Ohio legislatures.
On Saturday, Obama tried to bolster public support for the new rule by arguing that carbon-dioxide emissions are a nation health crisis — beyond hurting the economy and causing global warming.
“We don’t have to choose between the health of our economy and the health of our children,” Obama said in his weekly address. “As president and as a parent, I refuse to condemn our children to a planet that’s beyond fixing.”
The rule attempts to reduce greenhouse gases that Obama and supporters blame for global warming.
Among the plants that have to comply will be hundreds of coal-burning plants, which has resulted in strong opposition from the energy industry, big business and congressional Democrats and Republicans, who argue Obama’s green-energy agenda is tantamount to a “War on Coal.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce argues that the rule will kill jobs and close power plants across the country.
The group is releasing a study that finds the rule will result in the loss of 224,000 jobs every year through 2030 and impose $50 billion in annual costs.
Both sides of the argument appear to agree that the rule change will increase electricity prices, considering the United States relies on coal for 40 percent of its electricity. However, the plants also are the country’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
Many of the Democrats who are raising concerns represent coal-producing states and face tough 2014 reelection bids.
Among them is West Virginia Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall, whose state gets 96 percent of its power from coal. Rahall said Thursday that he didn’t have specific details about the rule but “from everything we know we can be sure of this: It will be bad for jobs.”
Obama is being forced to use the 1970s-era old Clean Air Act, after failing during his first term to get Congress to pass a law.
The law has long been used to regulate pollutants like soot, mercury and lead but has only recently been applied to greenhouse gases.
“There are no national limits to the amount of carbon pollution that existing plants can pump into the air we breathe. None,” Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address.
“We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury, sulfur, and arsenic that power plants put in our air and water. But they can dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air. It’s not smart, it’s not safe, and it doesn’t make sense.”
The rule also will prescribe technological fixes or equipment to be placed on existing plant and require new ones to capture some of their carbon dioxide and bury it underground.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.