Details emerge on how Obama admin will unveil power plant rule

Source: Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, June 2, 2014

President Obama will participate remotely in Monday’s rollout of one of the centerpieces of his second-term climate change agenda: U.S. EPA’s proposal to curb power plant carbon dioxide emissions.

The president will be traveling in Europe but plans to participate in a call hosted by the American Lung Association and other health and medical organizations to emphasize why reducing CO2 emissions can help safeguard human health.

“We’re excited to hear firsthand from the president about the proposal, and understand the public health benefits that are associated with it,” said Paul Billings, vice president of national policy and advocacy for ALA.

While few details have been provided about the rule still at the White House ahead of Monday’s release, Billings said the link between climate change and respiratory health is clear. Warmer temperatures mean more asthma-causing smog, he said. Furthermore, he said, by requiring power plants to limit their CO2 emissions, EPA will also encourage the reduction of sulfur dioxide emissions, nitrogen oxides and other pollutants that contribute to ozone.

The president will also make climate change the focus of his weekly address on Saturday, before departing for a trip that includes a visit to Poland — a nation heavily dependent on coal-fired generation.

The ALA call will come after EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy holds a news conference unveiling the proposal, which will curb emissions from currently operating plants.

Democratic House leaders were among the first to be briefed on the proposal. White House adviser John Podesta yesterday met with several Democrats in the office of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who participated in the meeting, said that it took “a 30,000-foot” view, with few details about what is in the actual proposal.

While he was in the room, Connolly said, much of the discussion focused on the economic effects of the proposal — which has been painted as a potential job-killer by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other opponents.

But Connolly said Virginia’s shift toward natural gas for generation had actually reduced power costs.

“Certainly in my home state, they’ve gone down, not up,” he said. Many utilities have already taken steps to limit CO2 and other emissions in recent years, and a report released earlier this week showed the sector had shed 13 percent of its greenhouse gas output between 2008 and 2012. Historically coal-heavy utilities like Duke Energy Corp. and Southern Co. were among the leaders in reducing their emissions, according to the report.

The EPA proposal may be the added push utilities need to make further reductions, said Connolly.

The report came as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pledged to renew his push to limit EPA’s climate change rules through new legislation. McConnell’s bid to use the Congressional Review Act to strike down EPA’s new power plant proposal for CO2 ended yesterday when the Government Accountability Office ruled that draft rules do not meet the law’s criteria.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) noted that the House has already voted numerous times to curtail EPA’s climate rules, but all of those efforts have fallen short in the Senate. But having watched Republicans vote 50 times to kill Obama’s healthcare reform law, the Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member said GOP members might do the same with these rules. But they won’t succeed, he said.

“We’re not talking about successful efforts to change the Clean Air Act or stop these rules,” he said.