The comments came shortly after the agency proposed first-ever national standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants. Tuesday’s proposed regulations do not affect existing plants, many of which produce high levels of air pollution blamed for climate change.
The revelation could cause frustration within the environmental community, which has long advocated for stringent rules to address climate change. But the move could offer President Obama some political cover going into the election amid growing Republican attacks over the climate rules.
Asked for clarification of Jackson’s comments, EPA spokeswoman Betsaida Alcantara said, “Her remarks were pretty clear.”
Despite Jackson’s remarks, two environmentalists said they believed EPA would eventually set carbon standards for existing power plants.
Joe Mendelson, the climate and energy policy director for the National Wildlife Federation, said the group is “confident that the EPA will continue to move forward” on the matter.
“Today’s proposal itself repeatedly acknowledges that the agency has responsibilities under the Clean Air Act (section 111(d)) to address carbon pollution from existing sources,” he said in an email.
David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council — one of the groups that had sued EPA to force creation of power plant rules — said in an email that “the Clean Air Act requires EPA to follow up with requirements” for existing power plants.
“The proposal [for new plants] acknowledges this responsibility. We look forward to reaching an agreement with EPA on a schedule for completing the standard for new sources and developing standards for existing sources,” said Doniger, the policy director of the group’s climate program.
—Ben Geman contributed.
This story was updated at 1:58 p.m.