Obama vetoes measures to kill carbon rule, inks spending deal

Source: Amanda Reilly, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, December 22, 2015

As expected, President Obama has vetoed two resolutions aimed at killing U.S. EPA’s carbon rules for power plants.

Congress passed the resolutions quashing the central piece of Obama’s climate change agenda in the hope of embarrassing the administration during the recent international negotiations in Paris. S.J. Res. 23 targeted EPA’s rule to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from new and modified power plants, while S.J. Res. 24would eliminate the Clean Power Plan.

Obama had previously threatened to veto both resolutions. The president said Friday in a pair of memorandums explaining his vetoes that the regulations were essential to addressing climate change.

“It is past time to act to mitigate climate impacts on American communities,” Obama said of the existing power plant rule. “Because the resolution would overturn the Clean Power Plan, which is critical to protecting against climate change and ensuring the health and well-being of our Nation, I cannot support it.”

The Obama administration leaned heavily on the power plant rules at the recent international climate negotiations in Paris to demonstrate the United States’ commitment to addressing climate change.

At the talks, nations agreed to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels and said countries will “pursue efforts” to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. The deal also requires countries to update their emissions reduction pledges by 2020 and every five years afterward.

Along with vetoing the resolutions Friday, Obama signed into law the omnibus fiscal 2016 spending bill to fund the government through September 2016. The legislation represents a victory for the president’s climate change agenda, as congressional Republicans dropped policy riders aimed at killing or weakening the Clean Power Plan.

The spending agreement also allows Obama to make good on his word to provide money for the Green Climate Fund, a U.N.-launched fund to provide developing countries with money to curb their greenhouse gas emissions and address the effects of warming (Greenwire, Dec. 16).

House Republicans critical of the administration’s climate agenda on Friday introduced a sense-of-Congress resolution in opposition to the Paris deal. Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) introduced the resolution with Republican Reps. Keith Rothfus of Pennsylvania, Morgan Griffith of Virginia and Andy Barr of Kentucky.

In a statement, McKinley criticized the Obama administration for “deliberately” shaping the Paris climate deal to circumvent Congress. He further called the Paris deal “window dressing” and a “feel-good exercise” that would have little impact.

“While the aftermath of the agreement has been full of self-congratulatory applause and high-minded rhetoric about saving the planet, the real impact of the agreement is questionable,” McKinley said. “It appears to be more about President Obama’s desire to embellish his legacy than making a tangible difference in global temperatures.”

At his year-end press conference Friday, Obama expressed optimism that the climate deal would survive the presidential election next year, regardless of whether a Democrat or Republican enters the White House.

“Do I think there’s going to be a lot of noise and campaigning next year about how we’re going to stop Paris in its tracks? There will probably be a lot of noise like that,” Obama said Friday. “Do I actually think that two years from now, three years from now, even Republican members of Congress are going to look at it and say that’s a smart thing to do? I don’t think they will” (E&ENews PM, Dec. 18).