By DEREK WALLBANK, JONATHAN ALLEN and MARK DRAJEM
President Barack Obama will propose a two-tiered regulation
limiting US carbon
emissions from power plants
while giving states broad leeway in how to achieve the cuts,
according to people familiar with the proposal.
The rule will seek modest reductions in the next five years
and as much as 25% over 15 years, according to the people who
requested anonymity before the announcement.
In a sign of its significance, Obama is set to speak on
climate change in his weekly address on Saturday and talk
with the American Lung Association about the issue on June 2,
the day the Environment
al Protection Agency
said it will announce the rule at agency headquarters.
The administration and its Democratic allies are bracing for
a political fight over the rule, which is critical to
Obamas legacy on climate and his efforts to coax other
nations to agree on limiting their emissions
. Democrats -
particularly from coal-producing regions - worry the
rule will trigger power plant shutdown and higher electric
bills, hurting their re- election chances.
The EPA is counting on coal plants being operated more
efficiently and states shifting to natural gas from coal to
get modest cuts in the next four or five years, the people
said. Each state will have a target based on its emissions,
and in the next decade will need to become more efficient and
use renewable generation to achieve the 25% cut, they said.
Some lawyers in the administration have said the approach
favored by the White House will leave the rule open to legal
challenges under the Clean Air Act because it relies on an
interpretation of the law that counts emissions
reductions that occur
outside power plants.
Republicans have signaled they intend to make the rule an
issue in the House and in campaigns in states where the coal
industry is a major employer. Some Democrats have voiced
opposition to a plan they worry will hurt them with voters.
Details of the rule emerged less than 24 hours after John
Podesta, the presidents top adviser on climate issues,
met with a handful of senior US House Democrats, signaling
the high stakes of the regulation for Obamas legacy.
Podesta told Democrats gathered in House Minority Leader
Nancy Pelosis office that he expects some Republican
governors to resist the rules but not with the same intensity
that they fought the Affordable Care Act, said two people who
attended. Thats because the alternative to cooperating
is enforcement by the Environment
al Protection Agency,
said the people, who requested anonymity.
Representative Henry Waxman of California, the top Democrat
on the Energy and Commerce Committee, said he reached out to
the administration to try to coordinate between the branches
Because of my strong concern about the climate change
issue, I have been in touch with the administration on these
rules as they have been developing, Waxman said in an
While many Democrats are eager to take aggressive action to
combat climate change, others in the party -
particularly those from coal-producing regions - worry
that the rule will be politically painful as it forces
power-plant closures and threatens to increase electricity
rates for consumers.
One House Democrat said the administration is bracing for a
floor fight in which Republicans will seek to embarrass Obama
with a vote against the rule.
While Democrats know theyll lose some coal state
members in such a vote, they would prefer to see the number
of defections closer to 10 rather than 50, said the lawmaker,
who asked not to be identified to speak about confidential
Its unlikely Republicans could muster the votes needed
to overturn the rule in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, asked about
the rule at a morning briefing yesterday, said he wasnt
qualified to debate the science over climate
But I am astute enough to understand that every
proposal that has come out of this administration to deal
with climate change involves hurting our economy and killing
American jobs, Boehner told reporters. That
cant be the prescription for dealing with changes in
The Democrats who met with Podesta are key to rallying party
votes in the House. They included Pelosi, Waxman, House
Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Chris Van Hollen of
Maryland, Doris Matsui and Scott Peters of California and
Gerry Connolly of Virginia, according to a lawmaker who
attended and asked not to be identified discussing the
Democrats familiar with the meeting described the discussion
as light on substance and heavy on talking points. States are
expected to have flexibility to devise their own systems for
reducing emissions, according to several people briefed on
This is about the air our children breathe. Its
about health as well as about jobs, Pelosi said today.
And its long overdue.
Obama has pledged to reduce US greenhouse gases about 17% by
2020 over 2005 levels, with deeper cuts to follow. At the
heart of that effort is a plan being considered by the
president that would cut power-plant emissions
. The EPA proposal is
scheduled to become final one year from June 2, and then
states will have another year to submit their plants.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said last week the rules will
give states flexibility to develop plans on how to
achieve those reductions in a way thats economically
beneficial to them.
The rules will let states establish their own energy
policies as long as the carbon
pollution reductions that
we are going to require in this rule actually are
achieved, she said at an event in Seattle.
The US Chamber of Commerce warned this week that the climate
plan could result in a $50 billion/year hit to the US
al groups counter that
spending on energy efficiency and renewable sources of power
will spur the economy along and add jobs. They say the
approach could be a net benefit to the country.