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. 

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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 CarperTom CarperOvernight Energy: Ethanol groups prep for fight over mandate Dems ask Pruitt to ‘correct the record’ on personal email use Senate Dems introduce bill to rescind Trump border wall, immigration order 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 WydenThe Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Overnight Regulation: Senate moves to strike Obama-era internet privacy rules Overnight Tech: Senate votes to eliminate Obama internet privacy rules | FCC chief wants to stay out of 'political debate' on fake news | Wikileaks reveals new CIA docs MORE (D-Ore.), Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerAnother day, another dollar for retirement advice rip-offs Carly Fiorina 'certainly looking at' Virginia Senate run Top Obama adviser signs with Hollywood talent agency: report MORE (D-Calif.) and Sens. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseUnder pressure, Dems hold back Gorsuch support Live coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing Dems land few punches on Gorsuch MORE (D-R.I.), Tim KaineTim KaineSenators demand Pentagon action after nude photo scandal RNC drops six-figure ad buy for Supreme Court, healthcare fight Lawmakers want Trump commitment to help Iraq post-ISIS MORE (D-Va.), Mark UdallMark UdallGorsuch's critics, running out of arguments, falsely scream 'sexist' Election autopsy: Latinos favored Clinton more than exit polls showed Live coverage: Tillerson's hearing for State MORE (D-Colo.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyThe Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Dem senator accuses Trump of 'dangerous tilt towards authoritarianism' Overnight Regulation: Dems punch back in fight over CEO pay rule MORE (D-Ore.), Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowPerdue says he will advocate for agriculture spending RNC drops six-figure ad buy for Supreme Court, healthcare fight Five things to watch for in Supreme Court showdown 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.