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EPA Emissions Rule to Mandate Limits Beyond Proposed Targets

EPA Emissions Rule to Mandate Limits Beyond Proposed Targets

Postby smix » Sun Aug 02, 2015 4:26 am

EPA Emissions Rule to Mandate Limits Beyond Proposed Targets
The Wall Street Journal

URL: http://www.wsj.com/articles/epa-emissio ... 1438488002
Category: Politics
Published: August 2, 2015 12:00 AM ET

Description: WASHINGTON—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday will set the nation’s first-ever limits on power-plant carbon emissions, mandating ambitious cuts that exceed the targets laid out in a proposal released last year. The EPA will require a 32% reduction in the emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels—a move the Obama administration describes as a “historic action” to combat climate change but one critics are likely to argue is both costly and untenable. The final version of the climate policy gives states more time to comply with the regulations but also raises the bar with a steeper cut to emissions than the 30% target proposed in a draft rule last year, according to a senior administration official. President Barack Obama will announce the regulations, the cornerstone of his environmental agenda, at a White House event Monday, where he will make the case that climate change is one of the most pressing challenges facing the country and that the U.S. must be a global leader on the issue. “Climate change is not a problem for another generation. Not anymore,” Mr. Obama says in a new video. “That’s why on Monday, my administration will release the final version of America’s Clean Power Plan—the biggest, most important step we’ve ever taken to combat climate change.” Republicans and some Democratic lawmakers, along with the coal industry and governors whose states rely on coal for much of their electricity, strongly oppose the plan and are expected to challenge it on Capitol Hill and in the courts. In anticipation of the rule, Rep. Ed Whitfield (R., Ky.) said in an interview last week the president was unilaterally deciding what’s best for the country, adding that Mr. Obama’s plan is a “power grab.” The administration official urged critics to read the regulations before rejecting them, saying that the final rule includes more flexibility for states and practical responses to some of the concerns raised about the draft proposal. “We’ve seen this playbook over and over again, and we already are taking the attacks even before people look at the rule,” the official said. “We’re really going to encourage in a serious, pragmatic way people to take a look at the rule.” The plan requires states to draft their own plans to reduce power-plant emissions to reach the overall national target. As with the draft rule released last year, the EPA will impose a federal plan on states that don’t comply, the administration official said. The final rule includes some concessions to states and utilities that had requested more time to comply, but also doubles down on renewable energy. Most significantly, the final rule pushes back the first year that states must begin complying with the rule, from 2020 to 2022. This change, which some environmental groups are expected to oppose, will likely be welcomed by utilities, who argued that the initial compliance date was too ambitious. The regulations also seek to prevent the electricity industry from becoming more dependent on natural gas, which burns 50% fewer carbon emissions than coal but still twice as much as zero-emitting sources such as wind, solar and nuclear power. Coal, which accounts for just under 40% of total U.S. electricity, emits the most carbon dioxide compared with other fuels. The draft rule, proposed in June 2014, relied on a large and early shift from coal power generation to natural gas. The final regulations would remove that assumption and instead create a new program that encourages states to deploy more renewable energy and energy efficiency by giving credits toward compliance to such projects that begin construction early on. The portion of U.S. electricity powered by natural gas would have increased to 31% by 2030 under the EPA’s proposal last year, compared with 29% under business as usual, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In the EPA’s final rule, the share of natural gas in the electricity sector remains essentially flat, according to the administration. The change is sure to incite criticism from oil and natural gas companies and utilities that have shifted significantly from coal to natural gas in recent years. More so than the proposal, the final regulation plan will help encourage nuclear power generation, which doesn’t emit any carbon and accounts for about 20% of the U.S.’s electricity. Nuclear reactors under construction right now in Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia will get credit toward compliance, a change from the proposal, the administration official said. The official added that nuclear plants upgraded to become efficient will also get more credit. The EPA rule cutting carbon emissions from power plants currently operating is the centerpiece of a larger regulatory push the administration will announce Monday. Two other rules will regulate carbon emissions from power plants not yet built and those that have been significantly modified or reconstructed. The EPA rules, taken collectively, make up the bulk of the Obama administration’s submission to the U.N. conference scheduled for December in Paris where the White House hopes to forge a global climate accord with other world leaders. While administration officials have said that the president’s climate regulations position the U.S. as a leader on the world stage, Mr. Obama still faces domestic opposition. Top Republican lawmakers have said they would explore every option to stop the implementation of the EPA rules. This week’s rollout of the regulations is expected to be met with a flurry of lawsuits. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) has discouraged governors from submitting plans detailing how they will lower their states’ emissions because he argues the regulations won’t hold up in court. “I hope you will carefully review the consequences before signing up for this deeply misguided plan,” Mr. McConnell wrote to governors in a letter earlier this year. “I believe you will find, as I have, that the EPA’s proposal goes far beyond its legal authority and that the courts are likely to strike it down.” Several Republican governors have raised the specter of declining to submit plans to cut carbon emissions. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said last week that the EPA rules are seeking unprecedented control over his state’s energy mix and would threaten the reliability of Texas’ electrical grid. A spokeswoman for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he opposes the plan and that his office would evaluate its options if the final EPA rule didn’t address the concerns raised by Mr. Walker and other governors. The Obama administration is planning a weekslong push highlighting the plan and broader efforts to address climate change, with the president pressing the issue and cabinet secretaries fanning out across the country to argue that action is needed. “This is a flexible, pragmatic way of doing something about it, but those that either deny that we have a problem at all or accept the problem but say the best solution is to do nothing, we’re just not going to accept it, and we’re going to take that fight squarely on,” the administration official said.
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