EPA chief: Bring on the climate fight

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency dared states that are challenging the administration's signature climate rule in court to "taste" the proposal aimed at curbing pollution from existing power plants.

"I bet ... they will realize just how thirsty they are," Gina McCarthy said.

McCarthy held little back Thursday when talking about the rules, which are a critical piece of President Obama's climate change legacy, egging challengers to call her bluff if they think the new standards aren't legally sound.

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"I will not go out of gate with a rule that doesn't respect the Clean Air Act, and isn't legally solid, just for the purpose of raising my hand and saying I fixed it," McCarthy said Thursday at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado.

Heading toward the announcement of the climate rule, McCarthy said her team had no illusions about the welcome it would receive from the coal industry and Republicans.

"Every major rule the EPA has put out has been challenged the minute it has been proposed," she said.

And while the new rules may be "aggressive" McCarthy admitted, she thinks they are strong.

"I am going to stick within the law. I'm look at the available technology, and the best part about that is I'm not only leading the horse to drink, I'm having them take a little bit of a sip. I bet when they taste it, they will realize just how thirsty they are," McCarthy boasted.

McCarthy pointed out that, while the new standards, which mandate states cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels, are about "building," not "disinvesting" in all energy sources, the future "absolutely needs to be carbon constrained, period."

She added that coal-reliant states, nine of which have filed a lawsuit against the EPA for the new rules, should "not be afraid of climate action."

Policy action, McCarthy said, is "the sparks that will keep our energy moving forward and the U.S. out in front."

"Today, average age of coal plants is 42; they will catch up with my age by end of 2030 comes. I admit I'm getting over the hill; they are way over the hill. It is time to think about how to invest in the future, not the past," she said.

Republicans have not held back from blasting the administration for the new rules, painting them as a full-fledged "war on coal" that they argue will kill energy jobs and shutter coal plants.

Since the administration officially proposed the rule early last month, House Republicans have held a hearing and introduced legislation to block the rules.

In the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has taken a similar route in pushing a measure that would derail the carbon pollution rules.

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