After a divided Congress failed to reform energy policies in Obama’s first term, the President is now using his executive authority to do it himself. Utilizing the 1970 Clean Air Act, previously enacted to regulate toxic gases like soot, mercury and lead, Obama is demanding that carbon dioxide be added to the pantheon of toxins that contribute to global warming.
This is a landmark moment in American environmental policy and is already stirring controversy. If it becomes law, the EPA rule will affect the country’s 600 coal-fired power plants currently in operation and may cause several to close. Scott Segal, a lawyer with the firm Bracewell & Giuliani, is preparing to sue on behalf of coal companies. In an email to the New York Times, Segal wrote, “Clearly, [the rule] is designed to materially damage the ability of conventional energy sources to provide reliable and affordable power, which in turn can inflict serious damage on everything from household budgets to industrial jobs.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is equally apprehensive about the rule, stating that it could lower the GDP by $50 billion annually and cut 224,000 jobs every year through 2030.
Under the EPA rule, states will have until 2017 to submit plans to cut their power plant pollution. This deadline is extended to 2018 for states that join together to create collective plans. To ease the transition, the rule will also allow for states to set up pollution-trading markets.
Though ambitious, the rule promises a rocky road in the months ahead. Forty percent of the United States’ electricity is currently generated from coal. But this plan intends to set the country on track to meet the 2009 United Nations’ greenhouse gas accord, for which the President pledged to cut greenhouse gas pollution 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050.
Planet Experts will have more details on this story as it develops throughout the days ahead.
The full 645 page EPA rule can be read here.