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Obama proposes CO2 regulations

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The Obama Administration announced Tuesday its intention to regulate CO2 emissions from power plants for the first time. The new rule, nimbly titled “Greenhouse Gas New Source Performance Standard for Electric Utility Steam Generating Units,” would allow the Environmental Protection Agency to create emissions standards for new power plants.

It is another end-run around a Congress that has balked at passing cap-and-trade legislation or other remedies to curb greenhouse gases.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the EPA had the right and responsibility to determine whether greenhouse gases endangered public health, making them subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act. The agency released its "endangerment" finding, a prelude to such regulation, just before the 2009 Copenhagen summit on climate change.

Since then, however, the White House and the EPA have delayed proposing new regulations, under intense pressure from Republican lawmakers, who have tagged the agency as a source of "job-killing regulation."

The White House has said that if Congress failed to act on carbon emissions, it would eventually step in.

The move could appeal to the president’s base at a time when he is taking many other unilateral steps to move his agenda, and as his reelection bid kicks into high gear.

David Doniger, policy director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement, “Setting carbon pollution standards for new power plants is an important first step. President Obama campaigned on moving America to a clean energy future. Cutting dangerous carbon pollution from the nation’s dirty power plants is an essential part of fulfilling that pledge.”

It is likely that the appearance of the rule in the White House agenda will only intensify the political slugfest over the regulation of greenhouse gases. When the EPA first announced that curtailing these gases would fall under its purview, the business community erupted in a fury that continues today.

"We don’t believe that unelected bureaucrats should be doing what Congress was elected to do," said Nicolas Loris, policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, which has battled the EPA regulation of carbon from the outset. “The economic costs of regulation by the EPA or by a cap-and-trade system far outweighs any environmental benefit we would get from these measures."

Asked how the Heritage Foundation would like to see this problem addressed, he added: "First we need to step back and look at what the real problem is: CO2 isn’t black smoke that is emitted from factories; it’s a colorless, odorless gas. Does it contribute to global warming and climate change? Sure. But it’s the role of Congress to figure out the best way to address those effects in a way that protects our economy."

Charlotte Baker, press secretary for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, stated, “The committee plans to review the rules recently submitted to OMB and remains focused on finding ways to promote common-sense regulations that will protect our environment without destroying jobs or driving up electricity prices for families and job creators."

The committee is chaired by Congressman Fred Upton, who spearheaded a House effort to block the EPA from regulating CO2 and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

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-- Dean Kuipers

Photo: The Encina Power Power Station in Carlsbad, Calif. Proposed EPA rules would regulate CO2 emissions from new power plants. Credit: Sandy Huffaker/Bloomberg News.

 
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