White House adviser John Podesta told reporters Monday afternoon that Congress could not derail the Obama administration’s efforts to unilaterally enact policies to fight global warming.
Podesta said that the president was committed to using executive orders to pass regulations under the Clean Air Act to limit carbon dioxide emissions that they say cause global warming.
“They may try, but there are no takers at this end of Pennsylvania Avenue,” Podesta told reporters at a Monday press conference at the White House.
Republicans and some Democrats in Congress have urged the Obama administration to scale back their climate goals because of the adverse impact of new regulations on the coal industry. Coal supporters have portrayed the administration’s actions as the “war on coal” due to huge job losses in coal states like Kentucky and West Virginia.
“We’re getting the living crap beaten out of us,” West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin told President Obama’s nominee to be the country’s top energy regulator last year. “There has been nothing more beat up than coal.”
“They just beat the living daylights out of little West Virginia, but they sure like what we produce,” Manchin told former nominee Ron Binz. “We could do it a lot better if we had a government working with us as a partner.”
Last year, Manchin eventually joined Republicans to oppose Binz’s nomination to head the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee. Manchin was concerned that Binz would promote renewable energy at the expense of coal power.
Republicans have also united to oppose many of Obama’s most controversial global warming policies, introducing numerous bill in both houses of Congress aimed at repealing regulatory actions. The latest Republican effort to derail Obama’s climate goals came from Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who introduced legislation to repeal all energy tax subsidies, which would hurt renewable energy growth.
“Washington should not be using taxpayer money to pick winners and losers in the energy industry,” Lee said in a statement. “Consumer-driven, free-market competition provides a much better way to ensure Americans have access to reliable, affordable energy.
Obama has made 2014 his “year of action” — promising to use his executive authority to implement various actions of the president’s agenda that are too divisive for Congress to consider. Podesta was brought into the White House late last year to help Obama find ways to use executive orders to unilaterally push climate policies.
Podesta authored a report in 2010 outlining ways the president could use his executive authority to push a progressive agenda, including unilateral actions on climate policy. Podesta wrote that the president could use executive power to reduce U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by 17 percent by 2020 — the very goal the Obama plans to meet using his executive powers.
Podesta also wrote that the Environmental Protection Agency could “spur the retirement of coal-fired power plants” and replace them with natural gas plants by imposing stricter emissions limits. Last year, the EPA announced limits that would effectively ban coal-fired power plants unless they install costly carbon capture and storage technology — the result of an Obama executive order from last year.
The EPA is set to release emissions limits for existing coal-fired power plants later this year. The agency has already enacted regulations in the past that are already contributing to coal plant shutdowns throughout the country. According to the Energy Information Administration, coal plant shutdowns are happening at an accelerating rate with 60 gigawatts set to retire by 2020.
Nearly 90 percent of those retirements will take place by 2016, the year power companies have to comply with the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) which limit mercury emissions as well as other air pollutants. By 2040, the country will have lost 15 percent of its coal-fired capacity, says EIA, though some estimates say the coal power loss could be higher.
The Obama administration’s most recent attempt to lower U.S. greenhouse gas emissions is to target methane emissions. A major part of his plan will be to limit emissions from the dairy industry, which sees large amounts of emissions from cow flatulence and burps. Republicans have warned that methane regulations could in effect become a tax on cow farts, but the administration does not seem to be backing off.
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