By Ben Geman - 06/16/13 10:59 AM EDT
Al Gore is urging President Obama to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, a step the White House has not publicly embraced to date.
Gore made the case for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations for new and currently operating plants in an interview with the Guardian newspaper on Friday.
“This whole project [Keystone XL] is an atrocity but it is even more important for him to regulate carbon dioxide emissions,” Gore told the British paper.
The administration is weighing whether to green-light TransCanada Corp.’s pipeline that would bring oil sands crude from Alberta across the border en route to Gulf Coast refineries.
With respect to power plants, EPA is crafting carbon emissions standards for power plants built in the future, although completion of rules issued in draft form in 2012 has been delayed.
But environmentalists say it’s crucial for EPA to take a more far-reaching step: Rules that address the nation's existing plants, which account for roughly a third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Coal-fired plants account for by far the largest share of power-sector carbon emissions, EPA data shows.
EPA, in a 2010 settlement with green groups and states, both agreed to write the new plant rule and require federally overseen, state-based carbon standards for existing plants.
However, White House officials have shied away from flatly committing to the existing plant rules or offering any timeline. Gore called addressing power plants a vital step Obama can take without going through Congress.
“He doesn't need Congress to do anything,” Gore told the Guardian. “If it hurts the feelings of people in the carbon polluting industries that's too bad.”
Many Republicans allege that EPA climate regulations will harm the economy.
Bills to strip EPA’s power to regulate carbon have repeatedly passed the GOP-controlled House, but have not advanced in the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim majority.