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.
“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 CarperTom CarperA guide to the committees: Senate Senate advances Trump's Commerce pick Warren: Trump's EPA pick the 'attorney general for Exxon' 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 WydenRon WydenMnuchin aiming for tax reform by August Dems rip Trump administration for revoking Obama's transgender directive IPAB’s Medicare cuts will threaten seniors’ access to care MORE (D-Ore.), Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerCarly Fiorina 'certainly looking at' Virginia Senate run Top Obama adviser signs with Hollywood talent agency: report Democrats vie for chance to take on Trump as California governor MORE (D-Calif.) and Sens. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseA guide to the committees: Senate Pruitt confirmation sets stage for Trump EPA assault Senate Dems ask DHS inspector general for probe of Trump’s business arrangement MORE (D-R.I.), Tim KaineTim KaineWashington-area lawmakers request GAO report on DC Metro Kaine discusses refugee crisis with Pope Francis during Vatican visit A guide to the committees: Senate MORE (D-Va.), Mark UdallMark UdallElection autopsy: Latinos favored Clinton more than exit polls showed Live coverage: Tillerson's hearing for State The rise and possible fall of the ‘Card’ in politics MORE (D-Colo.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyPoll: Senate should confirm Gorsuch A guide to the committees: Senate Senate advances Trump's Commerce pick MORE (D-Ore.), Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowA guide to the committees: Senate Trump's pick to lead Medicare won't say if she supports negotiating prices with drug companies Overnight Finance: Fed chief tries to stay above partisan fray | Bill would eliminate consumer agency | Trump signs repeal of SEC rule on foreign payments 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.