Crucial climate regs head to White House

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Draft regulations that would place tough new limits on emissions from the nation’s existing power plants has moved to the White House, according to records posted Tuesday by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)

The Environmental Protection Agency rule, perhaps the most contentious regulatory action proposed by the Obama administration, is a cornerstone of the president’s initiative to counter the effects of climate change.

The action represents the likely last step before the draft rule is formally proposed and its details are made public. President Obama has set a June deadline for proposal, with planned enactment of the regulation the following June.

The timeline is meant to ensure the rule is in place by the time Obama leaves office.

In a description of the rule posted to the OMB’s website, the EPA reasserts its authority to enact the new standards under the Clean Air Act. The effort follows a 2009 EPA finding that “projected concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generation,” according to the EPA.

Power plants’ “electric generating units” (EGU) are the single largest stationary source of greenhouse gas, accounting for more than a third of all emissions in the United States.

“Recognizing that greenhouse gases pose a threat to the public health and welfare and that EGUs are one of the largest sources of GHG emissions, the EPA has begun taking regulatory steps to ensure reductions of GHG emissions from EGUs,” the EPA said. “The regulatory path that the EPA has embarked upon commits the agency to regulating emissions from, not just new EGUs, but also existing EGUs.”

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has pledged that the rule would provide states with flexibility on how to meet the new emissions standards.

However, critics say the regulations would decimate the coal industry, which supplies a major portion of the nation’s electricity.

The cost of the proposal has yet to be calculated, according to the agency.

“At this time we do not have any estimates regarding the benefits and costs of this action, but we do expect it to be a significant regulatory action with annual effects on the economy exceeding $100 million,” the EPA said.

The unveiling of the proposal in June is certain to bring simmering legal and political debates over the regulations to a boil, just as the midterm election cycle gets into full swing.

Industry opponents are vowing to mount a federal court challenge to strike down the regulations on grounds that the EPA is exceeding its authority.

Republicans, who are accusing the White House and congressional Democrats of waging a “war on coal,” have identified the regulations as a major campaign issue for the 2014 cycle, especially in coal dependent states like Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio.