In addition to the Clean Power Plan released yesterday, EPA also publicized a proposal revealing how it will handle states that refuse to submit their own plans for emission reductions from the power sector. The agency plans to impose a federally enforced carbon trading program. It would fall predominantly on conservative states. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has encouraged Republican governors to defy EPA’s rules, and a handful have vowed to decline to submit proposals. “I think it’s very questionable whether it’s legal to do backdoor cap and trade,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said yesterday. “It’s 1,600 pages of legislating through a regulatory agency. That’s not how it’s supposed to work.”
“Over the past decade, even as our economy has continued to grow, the United States has cut our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth,” Obama said. But absent from Obama’s remarks was one key reason for that carbon reduction: the broad, economically driven shift from coal to natural gas-fired power plants. The omission wasn’t an accident: While Obama and U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy have long embraced natural gas as a “bridge fuel,” the administration kept the focus on renewable power sources like wind and solar during the Clean Power Plan rollout.
In its quest to spend more without raising taxes, Congress has found a new piggy bank. It’s buried deep underground, protected by armed guards, and filled with a valuable commodity worth billions of dollars. It’s not a gold vault—it’s the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the country’s emergency stockpile of crude oil. Created in 1975 after Arab oil producers cut off exports to the U.S., causing gasoline prices to spike, the SPR was designed to immunize the country against supply shocks. Today it stores about 695 million barrels of crude in salt caverns in Texas and Louisiana.
President Obama later this month is slated to keynote retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s clean energy summit, just on the heels of U.S. EPA finalizing its long-awaited Clean Power Plan. Obama will speak at the Nevada Democrat’s eighth annual National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas on Aug. 24 at the Mandalay Bay Resort, where “the focus will be game changing clean energy investments.”
So who’s forcing Marchionne and all the other major automakers to sell mostly money-losing electric vehicles? More than any other person, it’s Mary Nichols. She’s run the California Air Resources Board since 2007, championing the state’s zero-emission-vehicle quotas and backing President Barack Obama’s national mandate to double average fuel economy to 55 miles per gallon by 2025. She was chairman of the state air regulator once before, a generation ago, and cleaning up the famously smoggy Los Angeles skies is just one accomplishment in a four-decade career.
In the early months of 2014, a group of about 30 corporate lawyers, coal lobbyists and Republican political strategists began meeting regularly in the headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, often, according to some of the participants, in a conference room overlooking the White House. Their task was to start devising a legal strategy for dismantling the climate change regulations they feared were coming from President Obama. The group — headed in part by Roger R. Martella Jr., a top environmental official in the George W. Bush administration, and Peter Glazer, a prominent Washington lobbyist — was getting an early start.
Nebraska and Iowa would need to cut carbon emissions more aggressively than previously expected under a new White House plan for U.S. power plants, and Nebraska already is promising a court fight. Attorney General Doug Peterson said his state will join others in challenging Environmental Protection Agency rules that aim to cut carbon emissions in the power sector by 32 percent. An earlier version called for a 30 percent reduction. “Nebraska will challenge the final rule and EPA’s legal authority to adopt the regulations,” Peterson said. “Left unchecked, this inappropriate jurisdictional overreach of the federal government will have serious consequences by driving electrical costs up for all Nebraskans across our state.”
President Obama’s plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants over the next 15 years will force states to address climate change by pushing them to act more like California. The Clean Power Plan announced Monday poses significant challenges for states that rely on coal-fired power plants for much of their electricity, but complying with the rules will be a breeze for California. That’s because the state has practically eliminated coal from its energy portfolio and leads the nation with the toughest regulations to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet.
Building Block 4, as it was referred to in the draft rule, was sharply criticized by the rule’s opponents as exceeding EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act because it reached far beyond the power plant “fence line” to assume carbon reductions. EPA’s decision to nix the provision was surely informed by the millions of public comments it received before finalizing the rule. But it also got a clear indication from the Supreme Court after issuing the draft rule that such a reading likely would not pass legal muster.
The final Clean Power Plan released today sets tougher targets than last year’s draft version because it assumes that renewable energy and regional approaches have even greater capacity for helping the power sector shed emissions, U.S. EPA air chief Janet McCabe said today. Speaking on a call with reporters an hour after the rule’s release, McCabe touted the changes the agency had made to make it easier for states to comply. These changes were many and varied.