Greenhouse gas rules will be enacted soon, says Obama aide

The White House will enact greenhouse gas emission rules for power plants in the “not-too-distant future,” Heather Zichal, President Obama’s top climate adviser, said Monday.

The proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards for coal-fired power plants are “pretty historic” and “very much in line with the president’s broader climate objectives,” Zichal said at a Washington, D.C.-area conference hosted by Transportation Energy Partners.

Zichal made the comments after a recent Washington Post report suggested the administration might postpone and tweak the emissions rules, which were proposed about one year ago over strong opposition from industry groups and congressional Republicans.

Environmental groups back the emissions limits, and want Obama to go even further by imposing greenhouse gas limits on plants that are already up and running. The rules awaiting approval would only apply to coal-powered plants that are built in the future.

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The White House has not said whether similar standards for existing plants are being considered, though Obama said in his State of the Union speech that he would use executive authority to address emissions if Congress fails to do so legislatively.

Zichal didn't address the prospects of emissions rules for existing power plants on Monday, but said the EPA is a focal point of Obama's climate strategy.

“You’ve heard directly from the president that energy and climate policy is going to be a top focus in his second term," she said.

The rules for coal-fired plants are a major component of the White House's efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Democrats, environmental groups and public health advocates say the proposed rules would help stem climate change and reduce exposure to harmful pollutants, saving billions in healthcare costs.

But Republicans, industry and some centrist Democrats warn the rules would slow the economy and raise energy prices for some of the nation’s poorest residents.

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