Rumors have been swirling that President Obama soon plans to unveil major new efforts to combat climate change. And today, White House officials confirmed that the announcement is coming soon — probably next month, but maybe as early as next week.
At a Washington, D.C., forum sponsored by The New Republic, Heather Zichal, White House coordinator for energy and climate change, said the president planned to unveil new policy initiatives and is “serious about making [climate change] a second-term priority.” She declined to give details, but according to The New York Times …
Ms. Zichal suggested in her remarks that a central part of the administration’s approach to dealing with climate change would be to use the authority given to the Environmental Protection Agency to address climate-altering pollutants from power plants under the Clean Air Act. …
The electric power sector is responsible for about a third of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, and any serious effort to address climate change will require steps to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other climate pollutants from coal-burning power plants.
The administration has already proposed regulations that would crack down on carbon pollution from new power plants, effectively barring them from burning coal. But those regulations are being delayed, reportedly to make them stand up better under court challenge. A number of states and green groups had threatened to sue over the delay, but this week they backed off, saying they’d wait to see what climate initiatives Obama actually does announce.
The next big step would be regulating emissions from existing power plants, which could lead to the shuttering of coal-fired facilities. Climate hawks have been pushing for this. Here’s David Roberts on the tactic back in December (emphasis his):
This chance to spur decarbonization in the power sector is Obama’s greatest second-term opportunity on climate change. How EPA designs and implements these rules will help define his legacy. There is nothing else with as much potential that does not require the imprimatur of intransigent minorities in Congress.
Though such regulations do not have to be approved by Congress to go into effect, they’re expected to be the target of legal challenges from industry groups, and of intense opposition from lawmakers aligned with industry or representing coal-dependent states. From The New York Times:
The issue of power plant regulation is sensitive because it will … put further stress on the coal industry, which is already suffering from a lack of demand as utilities switch to natural gas, which is cheaper.
More regulations and a death blow to coal — the GOP will love it!
Speaking of things the GOP loves (to hate), Obama’s climate plan will likely also include expanded renewable-energy development on public land and increased focus on energy efficiency in buildings and equipment.