By Zack Colman - 07/09/13 06:10 PM EDT
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 CarperCentrist Dems wary of public option push Retailers are shirking consumer data security responsibilities GMO labeling bill advances in the Senate over Dem objections 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 12:30 Report Tim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense Dems push for US, EU cooperation on China's market status MORE (D-Ore.), Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerCalif. Dem touts her 'badass' sister's Senate run The Trail 2016: One large crack in the glass ceiling Dem suggests race factored into Obama Senate endorsement MORE (D-Calif.) and Sens. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseWhy Kaine is the right choice for Clinton Report: More, stronger cyber attacks to flood networks Senate Dems push Obama for more Iran transparency MORE (D-R.I.), Tim KaineTim KaineMcAuliffe: Clinton won't move TPP without changes Kaine to Trump: 'You're the one who brought the hot air' The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (D-Va.), Mark UdallMark UdallColorado GOP Senate race to unseat Dem incumbent is wide open Energy issues roil race for Senate Unable to ban Internet gambling, lawmakers try for moratorium MORE (D-Colo.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyOnly senator to back Bernie: Dems must unite Emphasis on diversity in Democratic convention lineup Clinton VP pick could face liberal ire MORE (D-Ore.), Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowDem sen: Clinton 'focused and prepared to keep us safe' Tim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense Dems to GOP: Admit Trump is 'unfit' to be president 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.