WH adviser enlists businesses in climate war

White House adviser John Podesta called on business leaders from across the U.S. Monday to share how climate change has affected their companies in an attempt to rebut Republican attacks.

"Businesses across the country and around the world are already starting to feel the impacts of climate change and extreme weather," Podesta said on the call. "We need local businesses like you to speak out about how much your businesses is affected, and the steps you are taking to mitigate those costs."

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Podesta answered questions on a call hosted by the administration's Business Forward initiative about the Environmental Protection Agency's new standards for limiting carbon emissions from existing power plants, which the agency unveiled Monday.

The rule is intended to cut emissions from power plants, which are the greatest producer of carbon dioxide, 30 percent by 2030. The effort is central to President Obama's second-term push on climate change.

GOP lawmakers and mining groups cited an analysis provided by the EPA, which projected coal production would decline roughly 25 to 27 percent in 2020 as an indicator of the devastation the rules would wreak on coal miners.

Podesta used the call to fire back at GOP claims that the rules will cost billions annually and destroy jobs.

He said that the cost of inaction is higher when severe weather is already disrupting manufacturers' supply changes, reducing agricultural yields and delaying housing starts, among other issues.

"While Washington plays politics, business is already paying the price. We are counting on each state to suggest ways we can improve the standards, we are counting on business leaders like you to get involved in the both the proposal phase and the implementation phase," Podesta said.

The EPA is allowing states, industry and the public to weigh in on the proposal during an extended 120-day comment period. The agency typically only allows 60 days for people to send in comments.

The administration is scheduled to finalize the rule by mid-2015, after which states will be given one year to set up a design of their choosing to reach the reductions targets. While 30 percent reductions are expected across power plants as a whole, each state will have different targets.

In talks, utility CEOs have said their favorite thing about the new standards are the flexibility options, Podesta said.

Podesta's call with businesses, which ranged from a biofuel company in California to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Chapel, Fla., is just the beginning of the administration's engagement campaign on the rules.

The announcement of the proposal has sparked an all-out climate war on Capitol Hill. Bulking up support from businesses now will help if the administration is hit with legal challenges from industry, Republicans or coal-heavy states after the rule is finalized.

"Your voices in local and regional media will be critical over the next week," Podesta told the businesses on the call.

Coal advocates slammed Obama for the media tactics Monday afternoon.

"As our nation’s economic and energy future stands in peril, the Obama administration has once again chosen to launch a media-driven campaign instead of confronting the growing chorus of Americans who want real answers about the consequences of EPA’s newly proposed carbon rule," Mike Duncan, CEO of American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, said in a statement.