July 22, 2013
On 25 June 2013 President Barack Obama laid out his plan to combat climate change, instructing his administration to move forward with rules on power plants and energy efficiency, and to approve the Keystone XL pipeline only if the move will not result in a net increase of greenhouse gas emissions, according to online reports from Politico.com.
The plan re-emphasizes Obama’s first-term efforts to raise vehicle emissions standards, foster the development of “clean coal” technology and stimulate green energy production. It looks to expand the use of solar and wind energy on federal lands and subsidized housing, and to encourage coal users to switch to natural gas. And it again takes aim at the oil and gas industry tax breaks that Obama has unsuccessfully urged Congress to eliminate.
Obama’s plan, which comes after months of uneasiness from environmental groups unsure of whether the president would take bold steps, relies on executive actions, in an acknowledgement that wide-ranging legislation – including a revival of the cap-and-trade bill that cleared the Democratic House but got bogged down in the Senate during the first two years of his presidency – isn’t going to have traction in either chamber.
Obama called on the State Department to only consider approving the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline if it can first determine that the pipeline will not lead to a net increase in overall greenhouse gas emissions. “Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires finding that doing so is in our national interest,” he said.
Obama pointed to the authority he has under the Clean Air Act – reinforced by a Supreme Court ruling several years ago – to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, and said he will use that authority to rein in power plants.
The president has set aggressive deadlines for the Environmental Protection Agency to finalize regulations on carbon emissions from power plants. He’s ordered the agency to finalize its rules – delayed from a release earlier this year – on new power plants by September, and to begin the rule-making process on existing plants. The EPA should develop the rules in “an open and transparent way,” he said Tuesday, with flexibility for the needs of various states and companies.
What this means to you
President Obama intends to use authority granted under the Clean Air Act – and reinforced by a Supreme Court ruling – to take action on climate change. Coal fired power plants will likely be impacted under aggressive deadlines, and the Keystone XL Pipeline and oil and gas industry tax breaks are also targeted. Tighter emission controls on a wide range of sources could be the foreseeable future.