21 june 2013

Obama speech on U.S. climate measures could come Tuesday: sources

WASHINGTON Reuters, Fri June 21, 2013

(Reuters) - President Barack Obama is likely to roll out a number of measures on climate policy, potentially including a strategy to limit greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, in a speech on Tuesday, sources familiar with the plans told Reuters.

The potential move on power utilities, which account for roughly 40 percent of the nation's carbon dioxide emissions, will come as Obama sets the fight to curb climate change as a priority for his second term.

Regulations are still pending on yet-to-be-built power plants, after the Environmental Protection Agency in April missed a deadline to roll out emissions rules.

But environmentalists have been pushing the administration to go after a bigger target, and set tighter standards for the roughly 1,400 coal-fired burners that are already feeding the nation's electric grid.

Earlier this week, the White House's top energy and climate adviser, Heather Zichal, said that Obama will take several steps to make tackling climate change a "second-term priority".

"In the near term, we are very much focused on the power plant piece of the equation," she said at an energy and environment forum.

Besides framing power plant emissions in the context of climate change, many of the steps outlined by Obama to curb demand for carbon-based fuels are likely to be modest.

The president is likely to talk about the importance of conserving energy, for example.

On Wednesday in Berlin, Obama said the United States understood it had to do more to fight climate change and he pledged that more action was coming.

"Our dangerous carbon emissions have come down, but we know we have to do more. And we will do more," he said in a speech.

Controlling carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning coal and other fossil fuels, is seen as a vital step in confronting climate change.

"The president has telegraphed very clearly that he intends to continue progress on this issue," said White House spokesman Jay Carney, who declined to comment on whether an announcement would come next week.

The timing of the announcement may yet be delayed, sources said. Obama is scheduled to fly to Africa on Wednesday.

Earlier this week, several environmental groups said that they would delay planned lawsuits against the EPA for failing to set standard for new power plants, as they await the White House's proposals.

"We're hopeful the President will announce common sense action to protect our economy and the health of all Americans from the very real threat of climate change," said Fredd Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund.

On Wednesday, Zichal said the administration plans to expand energy efficiency standards for appliances and accelerate clean energy development on public lands. Other elements might include raising onshore oil and gas royalties, which was suggested by the administration earlier this year.

(Reporting by Patrick Rucker, Valerie Volcovici and Jeff Mason in Washington, additional reporting by Scott DiSavino in New York; Editing by Marguerita Choy)


Obama's climate plan seen putting heat on power plants, appliances

By ANDREW RESTUCCIA Politico 6/21/13

President Barack Obama is preparing to bypass Congress on climate change and use his executive powers on everything from power plants to energy standards for appliances.

The president will soon outline the climate plan in a highly anticipated speech, and though official details are still under wraps, a top White House official said this week the president’s agenda will focus broadly on EPA regulations, energy efficiency and renewable power.

The White House plan is expected to rely on a series of executive actions that various federal agencies can take to address greenhouse gas emissions. The president threatened to make such a move in his February State of the Union Address if Congress failed to act.

(Also on POLITICO: Obama’s climate plan to focus on efficiency, renewables and EPA)

While the climate speech isn’t likely to touch on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, the controversial project that has spawned a massive opposition campaign among the president’s liberal base, it is expected to involve these measures:


All eyes are on the EPA, the federal agency in charge of writing and implementing what are likely to be some of the most controversial regulations in the president’s second term: limiting carbon emissions from both new and existing power plants.

Heather Zichal, the White House energy adviser, suggested Wednesday that the EPA is committed to moving forward with climate regulations for power plants, particularly from the fleet of coal-fired plants that have traditionally provided the bulk of the country’s electricity. Power plants are the biggest source of U.S. carbon emissions.

“Going forward, obviously the EPA is going to be working very hard on rules that focus specifically on greenhouse gas emissions from the coal sector. They’re doing a lot of important work in that space,” she said in a speech in which she promised “meaningful action” in Obama’s second term.
While Zichal did not offer details, observers and former Obama administration officials say the plan will call for EPA to go beyond its current efforts to limit carbon emission from new power plants to implement rules on power generating stations that are already in operation.

One leading environmentalist who has been in contact with the White House is “totally confident” that the administration is preparing to move forward with regulations for existing plants — a move that green groups see as crucial in the fight against climate change.

The plans for EPA regulations aren’t entirely new – regulators, lawyers, lobbyists and Washington insiders have been parsing the Clean Air Act’s options for regulating carbon emissions from power plants since cap and trade went down in flames in Congress. But the government’s efforts have been on hold since early last year, when EPA officials abruptly shut down talk of new regulations.

Any new restrictions will surely trigger a legal fight. Power companies and states that will be hit hardest by the regulations are certain to drag the rules through the courts and could delay their implementation for years.

But Obama doesn’t appear to be backing away from the contentious issue, as his speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin Wednesday showed. “Our dangerous carbon emissions have come down, but we know we have to do more, and we will do more,” Obama told the crowd.

And despite the lack of action so far in his second term, many climate action advocates remain hopeful Obama is now ready to make a move.

“I think the president does genuinely care about making progress on climate change. He thinks it’s an urgent priority for him and the world,” said Jason Bordoff a former top energy adviser to Obama.

A Democrat close to the president said Obama had lots he would like to do on climate, but faced significant political hurdles.

“The question is, what’s the most he can do with executive mechanisms like the EPA? I think he’s being very pragmatic about it,” the Democrat said.


The president is expected to set a new goal for expanding renewable energy on public land, a move that would build on the nearly 60 percent increase in renewable electricity produced from wind, solar and geothermal sources between 2008 and 2012.
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Any new green power goals would build on Obama’s earlier target of installing 10 gigawatts of renewable energy projects on public land by the end of 2012 — which the Interior Department met ahead of schedule.

Implementing the new target would largely fall to the Interior Department, which could make available federal lands in the West and encourage developers to build new wind farms and solar power plants.

A former administration official also said the president could include measures to promote offshore wind. While offshore wind power has been growing in Europe, the U.S. has yet to build a single project.

Opponents say renewables aren’t as dependable as coal and other traditional power plants, and that efforts to push clean energy at the expense of coal, gas and nuclear power will drive up energy costs for consumers and business, choking off the modest economic recovery.

“I think this is absolutely crazy,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday. “Why would you want to increase the cost of energy and kill more American jobs at a time when the American people are still asking where are the jobs? Clear enough?”


Long considered the most cost-effective measure to fight climate change, energy efficiency may be the least controversial of the proposals, although crafting effective rules is a complex task.

Observers say the president could call for the finalization of a slew of Energy Department appliance standards, several of which are long overdue. There are four appliance standards, for example, that have been at the White House Office of Management and Budget for more than a year.

The president could continue his ongoing push to make the federal government — the country’s largest energy user — more efficient. Obama has made improving the energy efficiency of the federal government a top priority. He signed an executive order in 2009, for example, that requires agencies to set goals for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, improve efficiency and reduce fuel consumption.

And energy efficiency advocates plan to watch the EPA rulemaking process closely for signs that states will be given flexibility to meet the agency’s greenhouse gas emissions guidelines by improving efficiency.

“If EPA were to propose regulations on existing power plants, the agency could allow a significant amount of flexibility for energy efficiency to count in meeting the rule,” said Rodney Sobin, senior policy manager at the Alliance to Save Energy.

A commission formed by the Alliance to Save Energy put forward a plan last year to “double U.S. energy productivity by 2030,” a goal the president adopted in his State of the Union speech. Among other things, the plan, which could serve as a road map for Obama’s efficiency proposals, calls for reforming federal efficiency tax incentives and strengthening building codes.

Obama may also take a cue from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, a panel of scientists and engineers that released a report in March at the president’s request outlining a second-term climate strategy. The council called on Obama to “focus on national preparedness for climate change” and remove regulatory roadblocks for clean energy development.

Erica Martinson and Alex Guillen contributed

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