NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Obama Bypassing Congress on Environmental Regulations

September 3, 2013

The success of President Obama's second-term climate agenda hinges on a set of regulations now in the works at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). His plan to combat global warming through new emissions standards and a shift toward increased renewable energy faces serious opposition from business groups and Congress is steeling for battle. But if the regulations survive the attacks -- and subsequent legal challenges -- they could amount to one of the president's most consequential initiatives, says The Hill.

The centerpiece of Obama's push is a set of regulations to limit greenhouse gas pollution from new and existing power plants, the source of about 40 percent of carbon emissions.

  • Obama announced the steps in June, as part of a wide-ranging plan to counter the effects of global warming at a time when legislative efforts lack traction in Congress.
  • Republicans and industry groups contend the rules will raise prices on home energy bills and at the gas pump, and warn the coal country could be put out of business.
  • They're also upset that the administration is sidestepping Congress.

In September, the administration is expected to unveil a revised set of draft emissions standards for new power plants.

  • The EPA is working on additional standards for existing plants, to be proposed next June and finalized the following year.
  • That second round is likely to be more difficult. Energy companies are expected to be especially vocal about their opposition to the rule, and regulators at the EPA will have technical challenges in reducing emissions from plants now in operation.

Power companies and industry groups have flocked to the White House to meet with administration officials and try to influence the final language of the rule for new plants.

  • The regulations for existing plants are certain to attract similar pressure. Opponents of the plan are hopeful that new EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will be more receptive to concerns about the plan than her predecessor, Lisa Jackson.
  • But supporters of the climate push say they're confident that the transition to McCarthy would not slow their momentum.

Federal rules, especially major ones, take years to finalize. Even if the rule for existing power plants is completed as expected, which is far from guaranteed, states will not need to submit their implementation plans until 2016. By then, Obama will be out of the White House.

Source: Julian Hattem and Ben Goad, "Obama Bypassing Congress on Climate," The Hill, August 26, 2013.


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