New EPA Rules Next Move in Obama's 'War on Coal'

Monday, 19 May 2014 01:57 PM

By John A. Oswald

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The Obama administration will escalate what Republicans call the White House's "war on coal" after Memorial Day when the EPA issues new rules to crackdown on carbon emissions, according to Politico.

President Barack Obama embraces the contention from many — but not all — scientists that the burning of fossil fuels is behind a global spike in temperatures that has lifted sea levels, melted glaciers, and increased the severity of storms.

In recent weeks, Obama has traveled the country sounding the alarm, and offering a proposed road map of legacy-building policy changes to address the impact of climate change. Many of the changes will be done by unilateral administration edicts and not by votes of Congress.

They include an onslaught of new rules demanding lower emissions from industries dependent on fossil fuels and incentives to turn to solar and wind power projects. But there is also a push to get a better handle on drought-driven wildfires and increase protections against flooding in the areas hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.

The push to reduce carbon emissions is creating big headaches for Democrats up for re-election this fall in states where coal is king.

The president reportedly won't delay launching the start of the implementation process, which includes hearings, if he wants to have the rules on the books before his second term is up in January 2017.

Politico reports the restrictions will be revealed June 2 and impact thousands of coal and natural gas-fired power plants. "This rule is the most significant climate action this administration will take," Kyle Aarons at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, told the news site.

The green energy lobby is thrilled with Obama's plan, but not some business groups. Manufacturing bosses and the nation's oil refiners say it's a major shot across the bow in a push to slap greenhouse gas limits on many more businesses.

"These regulations could reduce the diversity of our energy supply, increase electricity and compliance costs for American businesses, and shrink our competitiveness," Ross Eisenberg, vice president for energy and resources policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, tells Politico. "We can't sit by silently while that happens."

Democrats in coal-dependent states fear backlash at the November voting booths. And they should, says Hank Sheinkopf, a longtime Democratic strategist: "Having this debate now will only injure Democrats. Democrats are in trouble. The best thing when you're in trouble is to avoid further controversy."

News of the president's anti-coal campaign comes less than a week after the Keystone XL pipeline project went nowhere fast in Congress.

The pipeline — if ever built — would carry 830,000 barrels of oil from Alberta, Canada, south to the vast network of refineries in states that sit along the Gulf of Mexico, boosting domestic gasoline production and decreasing dependence on oil shipments from overseas nations that are sometimes hostile to U.S. interests and values and helpful to America's enemies.

But it now sits in a state of limbo, after Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Republicans clashed over five proposed GOP amendments to a massive energy bill. Environmental and other groups that have the ears of Democratic lawmakers are steadfast in their opposition to the economy-boosting project.

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