By TENNILLE TRACY
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama said Tuesday the
controversial Keystone XL pipeline should be approved only if
it doesn't "exacerbate" carbon pollution, as he unveiled a
sweeping new plan to tackle climate change.
In a closely watched speech at Georgetown University, Mr.
Obama also said he would direct the Environmental Protection
Agency to create carbon standards for both new and existing
power plants, one of the largest sources of greenhouse-gas
emissions in the US.
"The planet is warming, and human activity is contributing
to it," Mr. Obama said. He continued that "the question now is
whether we will have the courage to act before it's too
On Keystone, Mr. Obama said
the pipeline's climate impact would be critical to determining
if it goes forward, but it wasn't immediately clear whether Mr.
Obama's statement makes it more or less likely the pipeline
will be approved.
Environmental groups say building the pipeline -- which
stretches from Canada to US oil refineries on the Gulf Coast --
will lead to higher greenhouse-gas emissions by driving full
development of oil sands in Canada. Oil sands produce more
greenhouse gases than regular crude during extraction.
Mr. Obama called climate change a pressing issue that
"demands our attention now."
The announcement on power plants was immediately embraced by
environmental groups, which have pressed the Obama
administration to regulate coal-fired power plants that are
already in operation, some of which are decades old.
The EPA proposed a rule in 2012 to reduce carbon-dioxide
emissions from new power plants that virtually eliminated the
possibility that new coal-fired plants would be built. The EPA
hasn't yet finalized that rule, and some in the power sector
believe the agency will have to make significant changes to the
rule before doing so.
New rules from the EPA to address existing power plants will
serve as a key component of Mr. Obama's climate-change plan but
are likely to face both legal and political challenges.
Republicans argue that the Clean Air Act wasn't designed to
regulate carbon dioxide, but rather other harmful
In 2009, the EPA determined that greenhouse gases were
harmful to human health and the environment, a finding that now
serves as the bedrock for future action on addressing
Mr. Obama said critics of his plan may warn of lost jobs and
economic damages. He said these were "tired excuses for
Dow Jones Newswires