Obama to lay out ‘national plan’ on climate change

President Obama on Tuesday will lay out his long-awaited plan for second-term, executive-level actions to combat climate change.

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His speech is expected to include a pledge to curb carbon emissions from existing power plants, a top priority for environmentalists, according to a person briefed on the remarks and a Washington Post story Saturday.

“In my inaugural address, I pledged that America would respond to the growing threat of climate change for the sake of our children and future generations,” Obama said in a video message released Saturday afternoon.

“This Tuesday, at Georgetown University, I’ll lay out my vision for where I believe we need to go: a national plan to reduce carbon pollution, prepare our country for the impacts of climate change, and lead global efforts to fight it,” Obama said.

His top climate adviser said last Wednesday that the plan would address energy efficiency, expanding clean energy on public lands, and using various “tools” – including the Clean Air Act  – to address climate.

Climate advocates have long pressed the Environmental Protection Agency to begin writing rules to curb emissions from the nation’s existing fleet of power plants, in addition to rules floated in draft form last year that apply to new plants.

“We welcome reports that President Obama will begin to reduce carbon pollution from power plants because they are the largest uncontrolled domestic source of climate pollution. Cleaning up power plants is essential to protect public health and reduce the threat of climate related extreme weather events,” said Daniel J. Weiss, the director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.

“Administration officials indicated that his speech will also include valuable new steps to increase energy efficiency, and boost investment in wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources. We hope that the president will also announce measures to help communities become more resilient to future storms, floods, drought, heat waves, and wildfires,” Weiss added.

Obama, in his short remarks released Saturday announcing the speech, called addressing climate a “serious challenge” but added it’s “one uniquely suited to America’s strengths.”

He said the country would need scientists to design new fuels and farmers to grow them.

“We’ll need engineers to devise new sources of energy, and businesses to make and sell them,” Obama said.

“We’ll need workers to build the foundation for a clean energy economy,” Obama said.

White House climate policies already face political pushback from Republicans – who accuse Obama of waging an economically harmful “war on coal” – and some conservative Democrats.

A plan to impose regulations on existing power plants is sure to spark fresh attacks.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday said imposing new regulations on power plants is “absolutely crazy.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), whose state is a major coal producer, has strongly criticized EPA climate regulations.

He said in a short interview Thursday that regulating power plants is shortsighted, especially in the absence of such requirements in emerging nations including China, which is the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter.

“Why do you want to penalize and beat the living the daylights out of America and American taxpayers, and American ratepayers? It is just wrong, it is shortsighted and wrong, and I will fight it until the end,” he said.

He said EPA wants to impose standards “that can’t be met” with today’s technology.

But environmentalists say tackling carbon emissions from power plants is vital, especially the nation's existing facilities.

Power plants create roughly a third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Coal, by far, accounts for the largest share of power-sector carbon emissions, EPA data shows.

Obama is pressing ahead with executive-level actions at a time when major climate legislation is a nonstarter on Capitol Hill.

But Republicans quickly pledged Saturday to use Obama’s climate plan as a political weapon against Senate Democrats who may be vulnerable in 2014.

Brad Dayspring of the National Republican Senatorial Committee said that the group would hold these lawmakers “fully accountable” for what he called the damaging effects of Obama’s plan.

Dayspring, in a statement Saturday, predicted Obama’s plan will be a “gift to the radical left” and that it will “effectively crush the economy in West Virginia, Kentucky, Alaska, Arkansas, and Louisiana – not to mention plenty of other states like Michigan.”

“Whether or not Mark Begich, Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu, Kay Hagan, Gary Peters or any candidates in these states support the initiative is irrelevant, the fact is that their embrace of the Obama Agenda is hurting folks back in their home states,” said Dayspring, the GOP group’s communications director. “We intend to hold them fully accountable for their embrace of Obama.”

He’s referring to Democratic senators facing reelection in, respectively, Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina, while Peters is a Democrat running to replace Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who is not seeking reelection.

--This report was originally published at 3:59 p.m. and last updated at 5:41 p.m.