The Obama administration and Congress will spend 2015 fighting numerous battles over energy and the environment, clashing over issues ranging from coal-burning power plants to energy to smog.
Cost-benefit estimates of the coming regulatory wave of proposals from the administration vary tremendously, with proponents touting substantial benefits from cleaner air and water, and opponents claiming the regulations are based on junk science that will destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs at a minimum.
In December, President Barack Obama will dispatch U.S. negotiators to Paris in an effort to reach an international accord on climate change. Interim talks in Lima, Peru, ended last month with major issues unresolved, including demands from developing countries for $100 billion in annual assistance to help mitigate what they say is the damage from climate change.
And sometime this year, the president may decide on the future of the Keystone XL energy pipeline. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the pipeline will be the first order of business.
In all, "it should add up to one of the most ambitious years in energy and climate policy in decades," according to Politico
Politico notes that President Obama is now freer to act on his ideological beliefs, no longer having to worry about protecting "moderate Democrats," like Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who were defeated for re-election. The president has no more elections to face, and little chance of reaching compromises with congressional Republicans energized by their landslide victory at the polls in November.
"As I've watched the president's actions since November, it has become clear to me that he is intent on making the environment the bedrock of his legacy," said Sen. Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican who is the incoming chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Inhofe, who spoke at a hearing about an ozone rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency, promised to bring "more rigorous oversight" to bear over the administration's environmental policies.
New Year’s Day was also day one for enforcement of a key requirement of new air pollution regulations for fracked oil and gas wells.
And in April, "power plants must begin complying with EPA mercury and air toxic regulations that have already inspired utilities to begin shutting down many of the nation’s oldest and dirtiest coal plants, although most power plants will get one-year extensions to clean up," Politico said.
This month, the EPA will announce plans to curb methane pollution from oil and gas operations.
By summer, the agency will complete what is being described as the "cornerstone" of President Obama's environmental agenda — a final regulation to limit carbon dioxide pollution from existing coal- and gas-fired power plants nationwide.
And by June, the EPA is expected to complete a companion climate rule for future power plants.
Estimates of the costs and benefits of these regulations vary widely. The EPA claims, for example, that the "projected net present value of carbon dioxide mitigation benefits over the next forty years" from some of its proposed regulatory changes
ranged between $78 billion to $1.2 trillion.
But according to estimates by the Heritage Foundation, proposed EPA carbon regulations "would drastically lower U.S. manufacturing employment levels," costing the economy 458,000 manufacturing jobs by 2030.
According to a Heritage Foundation report
issued in November, by 2050 the U.S. economy would shrink by $2.6 trillion as a result of the carbon regulations — an average of $155 billion a year.
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