Rules introduced by the Environmental Protection Agency aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants may not receive presidential approval until the U.S. is in a less turbulent political environment, according to the National Journal. A recent study of beltway insiders by the publication found that 40 percent of respondents believe that President Obama will wait until after the November elections to issue the rules which would, according to one insider, “send shock waves through the important Rust Belt states.” The EPA is targeting the energy industry under provisions of the Clean Air Act, stating that fossil fuel power plants and refineries are presently responsible for around 40 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The EPA’s proposal has been met with resistance since last November, when it was submitted to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget for review. A group of 200 house Republicans, accompanied by a handful of conservative Democrats petitioned OMB Director Jeffery Zients to oppose the regulations last month, claiming “Affordable, reliable electricity is critical to keeping growing jobs in the United States and such a standard will likely drive up energy prices and threaten domestic jobs.”
At present new facilities or facilities undergoing renovation are required to obtain permits from the EPA if their emissions will be over 100,000 tons a year. Opponents have claimed that the EPA is overstepping its boundaries in efforts to extend this permitting process, while the EPA maintains that it has the authority and the obligation to do so under the Clean Air Act. Bloomberg reported that “In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA had authority to regulate greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane under the Clean Air Act if the agency declared them a public danger.” In 2009 the EPA issued an “endangerment finding” which set forth their ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from all power plants.
While 40 percent of National Journal insiders believe that Obama will wait until after November’s elections to rule on the proposed regulations, other insiders reportedly believe that the President will be more courageous with nearly 30 percent responders suggesting that “the rules would still come this month.”Another respondent posed that “The White House may think punting on Keystone was a big-enough bone for environmentalists and they don’t have to do anything else for them before the election… and delay avoids providing grist for the ‘War on Coal’ mill.”
The regulations have been set forth by groups such as the National Resources Defense Council as, alongside Keystone, one of the most vital environmental rulings Obama has before him. To delay as a political strategy makes a tragic sense. Energy production and its environmental impact has become one of the most significant political footballs of the Republican primaries, with candidates placing the blame squarely on Obama for rising oil prices, while mocking suggestions that the U.S. support renewable energy solutions. With 60 percent of National Journal insiders agreeing that “issuing the greenhouse-gas standards for power plants ahead of the election could be politically damaging for Obama,” it could be argued that a delay on this issue would represent a modest, if theoretical, victory for legislators who support the continued destruction of natural resources in the pursuit of energy.
Second image by Noël Zia Lee on Flickr