The Obama administration is set to announce steeper-than-expected cuts in carbon pollution from power plants, part of a stepped-up push to emphasize climate change in the weeks and months ahead.
The new Clean Power Plan — certain to be challenged in the courts and in the Republican Congress — will require power plants to reduce carbon emissions by 32% from 2005 levels between now and 2030.
That’s a 9% increase from the rules as proposed a year ago, according to the White House.
In a video announcing the revamped plan, Obama called it “the biggest, most important step we’ve ever taken to combat climate change.”
“The revamped rules will be formally announced Monday August 3rd“, Obama said.
— Vice President Biden (@VP) agosto 3, 2015
The plan also calls for a faster transition to renewable energy sources by 2030. In addition, states will be given an additional two years for compliance, until the year 2022, in an attempt to placate critics who said the original plan included an unrealistic deadline. States will also be given flexibility to meet emission cut goals in ways that fit their specific circumstances.
Compliance costs are estimated at $8.4 billion annually through 2030, the White House said, but the encouragement of energy efficiency and development of new clean energy sources will bring back more economic benefits.
Obama plans to sell this and other climate change plans in a series of high-profile events over the next several months.
In late August, he plans to address a National Clean Energy Summit in Nevada and will become the first president to visit the Arctic area of Alaska.
Climate change will also be a major topic when Obama meets with Pope Francis at the White House in September.
Later this year, Obama aides and government officials from other countries will gather in Paris to negotiate the details of a proposed global climate change agreement.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other Republicans have said that Obama’s proposed emission cuts are unrealistic and will slow business growth and job creation.
Members of the energy industry have already announced plans to sue over the new emission cut rules, saying the administration lacks the legal authority to impose them. Some Republican governors have also discussed legal actions against the new restrictions.
The Obama administration proposed new carbon emission limits a year ago, leading to a review process that generated more than 4 million public comments to the Environmental Protection Agency.
EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said Americans do not have to choose between the environment and the economy. A more efficient energy system will reduce utility bills, while development of new clean energy sources will generate jobs and trigger growth, she said, calling climate change policy “an incredible economic opportunity.”
Scott Segal, a lobbyist for utility companies that may be involved in litigation, said the revised rules could threaten the nation’s power system.
“While the additional time to prepare plans and begin compliance are welcome — and a tacit acknowledgment of how unreasonable the original timelines were — the resulting federal mandate is dangerous,” said Segal, who works with the firm Bracewell and Giuliani. “It still presents significant intrusions into state affairs, endangering consumers, manufacturers, hospitals, schools, and the very reliability of the system.”
In the White House video, Obama said that climate change is causing hotter summers, rising seal levels, longer wildfires, contributing to more asthma cases, and more destructive extreme weather events.
The administration has moved in previous years to limit greenhouse gas emission for cars, trucks and heavy-duty vehicles, and to reduce methane pollution.
Yet, Obama said in the White House video, “existing power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of harmful carbon pollutants into the air we breathe.”
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