McConnell climate campaign ‘way outside the bounds’ — top Obama aide 

Source: Robin Bravender, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, March 23, 2015

President Obama’s senior climate adviser thinks Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign for states to ignore pending power plant rules is way out of line.

McConnell “is going way outside the bounds of the position that he was elected to,” White House senior adviser Brian Deese said Friday at an event in Washington, D.C., hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. “I think that we all would be better served if he and others spent less time trying to lecture states about what they should be doing.”

The Kentucky Republican has been prodding states to ignore EPA’s proposed rule to cut down on power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions, contending that it’s legally vulnerable and likely to be tossed out in court (E&E Daily, March 20).

Deese said today that red and blue states alike are already focusing on how they can get in line with the rule and suggested that the plan’s critics in Congress spend “more time trying to actually get some constructive things done,” like “confirm a highly qualified attorney general nominee.” The delayed Senate confirmation of Obama’s attorney general pick, Loretta Lynch, has frustrated White House officials and Senate Democrats.

Deese — who took over former White House counselor John Podesta’s climate portfolio last month — also rejected claims today that the administration’s forthcoming climate change rule is “burning the Constitution.”

Obama’s Harvard Law School mentor and noted constitutional scholar, Laurence Tribe, made waves earlier this week when he told House lawmakers that the climate proposal released by EPA last summer represented a “breathtaking power grab” by the Obama administration.

“EPA is attempting an unconstitutional trifecta: usurping the prerogatives of the states, Congress and the federal courts all at once,” Tribe said. “Burning the Constitution should not become part of our national energy policy” (Greenwire, March 17).

But Deese said today that the Obama administration’s executive actions are on firm legal ground.

He added that the administration plans to keep rolling out executive actions in the environmental arena.

“I think if you look at the agenda around reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing carbon pollution and encouraging the clean energy economy, this is a place where we have a very aggressive agenda, and most of the actions that we are pushing forward are actions that we can move forward through the executive space,” Deese said.

The core of the administration’s agenda is slashing greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector under the White House’s Clean Power Plan, Deese said. The administration is also issuing a new rule today governing hydraulic fracturing on public lands (see related story).

Beyond that, he said, in the areas of clamping down on methane emissions and boosting energy efficiency, “we have a lot more to do through rulemaking.”

Set sights higher than ‘one pipeline’

Deese yesterday echoed Obama’s calls to move beyond the contentious debate surrounding the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Asked during a White House press briefing yesterday whether Obama has grown more pessimistic about the project, Deese said, “I think the president has reinforced and you’ve heard in the president’s comments on this issue is his view that we all should be setting our sights substantially higher than the debate around this one pipeline.”

Obama used his State of the Union address in January to criticize lawmakers for zeroing in on Keystone XL (E&E Daily, Jan. 21).

Deese yesterday stressed to reporters that the State Department is moving ahead with its own review of the pipeline.

“There’s a process that’s ongoing and it’s going to resolve itself around Keystone that we are not getting into or commenting on,” he said. “Separate from that process, the president thinks it’s very important that we have not only a discussion about doing something more aggressive on infrastructure but Congress actually starts moving and showing a commitment to do so.”