Obama’s new climate plan relies on unilateral executive power

Under pressure from environmentalists, President Barack Obama’s new plan to tackle global warming relies on executive power to corral power plants.

The president calls for the Environmental Protection Agency to “expeditiously” set limits on carbon dioxide emissions for new and existing power plants, a move that will be hailed by environmentalists and decried as debilitating by the struggling coal industry.

“To accomplish these goals, President Obama is issuing a Presidential Memorandum directing the Environmental Protection Agency to work expeditiously to complete carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants,” states the Obama plan. “This work will build on the successful first-term effort to develop greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for cars and trucks.”

“In developing the standards, the President has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to build on state leadership, provide flexibility, and take advantage of a wide range of energy sources and technologies including many actions in this plan,” the document continues.

Regulations previously proposed by the EPA to limit emissions at new power plants would effectively ban the construction of new coal-fired power plants unless they utilize carbon capture technology, which the industry argues is not commercially viable.

“We do not believe EPA regulations are an effective way to address concerns about global climate change,” said Mike Duncan, president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. “If the government creates standards that are not practical, they risk not just shutting down existing plants but also halting the development of additional clean coal technology facilities. Taking America’s most significant source of electricity offline would have disastrous consequences for our nation’s economy.”

Earlier this year, the EPA missed its deadline to finalize a rule limiting emissions from new power plants. Environmental groups and several states responded by threatening to sue to force the agency to implement the rule. The lawsuit was shelved pending the president’s new climate plan.

“Combating climate change means curbing carbon pollution — for the first time ever — from the biggest single source of such dangerous gases: our coal-fired power plants,” said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We stand ready to help President Obama in every way we can.”

The EPA has also already indicated that emission limits for existing power plants are ahead.

Acting EPA administrator Bob Perciasepe told reporters that the agency looks forward to “working with states on existing sources, but we’re not there yet. But that’s certainly something that will be on the table in this next fiscal year.”