Senate Dems huddle with Obama adviser to discuss climate plan

About a dozen Senate Democrats huddled with White House climate and energy adviser Heather Zichal in the Capitol on Tuesday to discuss President Obama’s climate agenda.

Senators present said Zichal mainly discussed the timelines for regulations floated in the plan Obama announced at the end of last month. 

The briefing was also aimed at getting the administration and lawmakers on the same page in advance of expected attacks from opponents.

“I just think it’s helpful to know, have some certainty, about what they’re thinking of makes sense in the administration, provide plenty of time for feedback and then say, ‘By this date and time, we want to finalize these standards,’ ” Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperWarren turns focus to Kushner’s loans Overnight Energy: Dems probe EPA security contract | GAO expands inquiry into EPA advisory boards | Dems want more time to comment on drilling plan Overnight Regulation: Senate takes first step to passing Dodd-Frank rollback | House passes bill requiring frequent reviews of financial regs | Conservatives want new checks on IRS rules MORE (D-Del.) told reporters of the meeting.

Obama’s climate push relies on a suite of executive actions that include emissions rules for new and existing power plants, more stringent energy efficiency standards and beefing up renewable energy production on federal lands.

It drew immediate fire from Republicans, who oppose Obama’s clean energy push, as well as business groups, the coal industry and coal-state Democrats.

Those who attended Tuesday’s briefing included Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenGOP senator blocking Trump's Intel nominee Revisiting America’s torture legacy Facebook faces new crisis over Cambridge Analytica data MORE (D-Ore.), Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerThe ‘bang for the buck’ theory fueling Trump’s infrastructure plan Kamala Harris endorses Gavin Newsom for California governor Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response MORE (D-Calif.) and Sens. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseOvernight Defense: Senate sides with Trump on military role in Yemen | Dem vets push for new war authorization on Iraq anniversary | General says time isn't 'right' for space corps Overnight Energy: EPA plans to restrict use of science data for regs | Pruitt's Italy trip cost more than K | Perry insists he's staying at Energy Senate sides with Trump on providing Saudi military support MORE (D-R.I.), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineBill to bolster gun background checks gains enough support to break filibuster Senators demand cyber deterrence strategy from Trump Two-year defense spending smooths the way to a ready military MORE (D-Va.), Mark UdallMark Emery UdallSenate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Democratic primary could upend bid for Colorado seat Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups MORE (D-Colo.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyBill to bolster gun background checks gains enough support to break filibuster Democrats remain skeptical of Trump’s rebuilding plan Dems to face off in Calif. nomination fights MORE (D-Ore.), Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowSenators target 'gag clauses' that hide potential savings on prescriptions Nonprofit leaders look to continue work with lawmakers to strengthen charitable giving 10 Senate Democrats are up for reelection in Trump country MORE (D-Mich.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).

Zichal did not speak with reporters — though some senators offered a glimpse of what was discussed.

“A lot of questions on specifics, and people were positive and encouraging,” Stabenow told reporters of the meeting. “Just what the plan is, the timetable.”

Schatz told The Hill that the meeting helped senators understand how the White House plans to implement the “extensive” regulations.

He said that the upper chamber is still “fleshing them out in terms of timeframe for the roll out, what the expected interactions with stakeholders will be and how the Senate can be most supportive of those actions.”

One detail did, however, emerge — a revised draft rule governing emissions from power plants will separate coal- and natural gas-fired facilities, rather than lumping both together.

Carper told reporters that Zichal outlined the change to the draft Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule in the meeting.

“What the president’s laid out is a regulatory approach, just making it very clear that there will be a new source performance standards — one set for new coal plants, one set for new natural gas plants,” Carper said.

He added that the administration will likely move ahead with separate standards for existing coal-, natural gas- and oil-fired generators when it moves ahead with that rule.

The shift on the rule for new plants had been anticipated since the Obama administration missed an April deadline for finalizing it. Industry had objected to giving coal- and natural gas-fired plants the same regulatory treatment.

The EPA sent its revised rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget last week, but would not confirm the change to the draft rule.

"EPA will issue a new proposal in September. We will not comment while the proposal is in draft form," the agency told The Hill in a statement.

This story was updated at 3:27 p.m.