Obama to unveil new climate rules for power plants; challenges likely

News outlets previewed President Obama’s announcement, set for Monday, of new climate-change rules for power plants. Most reports note that the initiative marks the start of an administration push on climate change but add that the proposal is likely to face fierce opposition from Republicans and the energy industry.

Bloomberg News (8/3, Drajem) says the White House’s “Clean Power Plan” is “designed to cement the president’s legacy on climate change,” but the AP (8/3, Lederman) points out that it will be “up to Obama’s successor to implement his plan.”

NPR (8/3, Peralta) reported on its blog “The Two-Way” that Obama called the plan the “biggest, most important step we’ve ever taken to combat climate change.” In a video released by the White House, he said: “Remind everyone who represents you that protecting the world we leave to our children is a prerequisite for your vote. Join us. We can do this. It’s time for America and the world to act on climate change.”

According to Reuters (8/3, Volcovici), although energy industry groups and some lawmakers in states that rely on coal-based power argued that the administration’s new regulations will result in higher energy costs, the White House called the plan “the starting gun for an all-out climate push.”

National Journal (8/2, Plautz, Subscription Publication) says Monday’s announcement will be the start of a “full-court press on climate change” by the administration, adding that it will be “the first in a series of events” involving Obama and other officials “to highlight climate change.” In coming weeks, the president “is set to make several speeches … about the threat of global warming, including delivering the keynote address” at Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) National Clean Energy Summit in Nevada on August 24. Obama also will visit the Alaskan Arctic at the end of this month, and the White House noted that Vice President Joe Biden and other cabinet members will “use Congress’ August recess to hammer home the climate message.”

McClatchy (8/3, Adams) reports that the final version of the plan is “similar in structure” to a draft announced “amid fanfare in June 2014,” but with “some” important differences. The report cites a “senior administration official” as saying that the plan “seeks to cut power-sector carbon pollution by 32 percent from 2005 levels, while the draft had been for a cut of 30 percent.” However, “states will be given more time and flexibility to meet the targets,” which vary.

A Christian Science Monitor(8/2, Mendoza) analysis also examines differences between the final version and the original proposal, noting that the changes “are in part a result of criticism from the energy and manufacturing industries and some energy-producing states,” which have said that “the original timeline for expanding natural gas pipelines and shutting down coal plants was too short and could result in power shortages and higher electricity costs for consumers.”

The Washington Times (8/3, Wolfgang) calls Monday’s announcement the culmination of the “White House assault on the US coal industry,” and says the rule, “which is bitterly opposed by lawmakers of both parties, is sure to spur a host of lawsuits,” and is “expected to raise electricity rates across the country.”

The Hill (8/2, Cama) reports that “despite the added stringency, the rule is predicted to avoid little more than 0.01 degrees Celsius in global warming, since the United States’ emissions are only a small part of the world’s,” adding that the plan is “expected to draw immediate scorn from congressional Republicans, conservative states, the fossil fuel industry and others.”

NAM: Manufacturers Shouldn’t Be Punished By Climate Initiatives. In a news release, NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons said the new regulation “will be exceptionally difficult for manufacturers to meet and will increase energy prices and threaten electric reliability.” He added, “Manufacturers are committed to being responsible stewards of our environment, leading the way in that effort, and we are disappointed the Obama Administration has chosen to pursue this path.” With US manufacturers already building “more efficient power plants, factories, cars and appliances” and thereby producing “lower emissions,” the country needs “policies that foster continued innovation, encourage new investments and allow manufacturers to remain competitive — not ones that punish and penalize.”

In an analysis, the Washington Post (8/3, Warrick) says the revised rule “expresses lofty aims,” but its details “reflect real, practical concerns about the battles still to come: an expected onslaught of litigation and legislation designed to derail the bill.” According to the Post, the final shape of the plan “was hashed out over months of often contentious meetings as administration officials debated how to balance two competing objectives.” Advocates for “for the deepest possible cuts in U.S. greenhouse-gas pollution,” were pitted against “experienced regulators and lawyers who saw trouble ahead as the proposed rule picked up growing numbers of opponents in Congress and in the utilities industry.”

In an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal (8/3, Subscription Publication), Hal Quinn, president and CEO of the National Mining Association, and Peter Glaser, a partner at Troutman Sanders LLP, who represented the association before the Supreme Court in Michigan v. EPA, call on states to oppose the rules, arguing that the administration didn’t uphold its legal obligation to weigh the costs of the plan against the benefits.

A New York Times (8/3, Davenport, Subscription Publication) analysis says Obama’s “aggressive actions on climate change have thrust the issue into the 2016 campaign,” which strategists say “could feature more substantive debate over global warming policy than any previous presidential race.” Because most of the changes under the plan “would unfold under the next president,” the current candidates face “a much more specific question on climate change policy than any of their predecessors have: What would they do to Mr. Obama’s climate change legacy?”

Clinton Vows To Defend Obama’s Plan. The Wall Street Journal (8/2, Harder, Nelson, Subscription Publication) reports that although the plan drew fire from Republican lawmakers and the energy industry, it was praised by Democrats in Congress and Democratic presidential hopefuls, including Hillary Clinton, who said she would defend it against GOP attacks.

The Washington Times (8/3, Miller) says Clinton “vow[ed] to be a third term of the Obama administration when it comes to fighting climate change,” saying, “It’s a good plan, and as president, I’d defend it.”

The Washington Post (8/3, Gearan) notes that environmental issues “are playing a larger role in the 2016 election than in any recent cycle and are an increasingly important marker for Democratic candidates.” According to the Post, former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley “praised the Obama plan in a Twitter message,” and “added a link to his own climate plan.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) issued a statement Sunday saying, “President Obama understands that climate change is the great planetary crisis facing us and that we must move boldly to transform or energy system away from fossil fuels and toward energy efficiency and renewable energy.”