The latest details to emerge from President Obama's impending executive action on climate change are dramatic. According to a report in the New York Times, a new regulation proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency will cut coal plant emissions by up to 20 percent, and will allow states to use cap-and-trade regulations to meet that national limit.
The plan, anticipated for weeks, will be announced on Monday. According to the Wall Street Journal, the EPA will finalize the rule by mid-2015, and states will be expected to come up with a plan to implement the rule by the next year. Here's more from the Times:
People familiar with the rule say that it will set a national limit on carbon pollution from coal plants, but that it will allow each state to come up with its own plan to cut emissions based on a menu of options that include adding wind and solar power, energy-efficiency technology and creating or joining state cap-and-trade programs. Cap-and-trade programs are effectively carbon taxes that place a limit on carbon pollution and create markets for buying and selling government-issued pollution permits
Some states already have cap-and-trade plans: California, and a regional plan in the Northeast. But the Obama administration has long wanted to open up the strategy to all states. Back in 2010, the administration gave up on a plan to get cap-and-trade legislation through Congress. It's all but certain that the new regulation will be met with the same sort of outspoken opposition from Republicans and the coal industry that the legislative push prompted.
Despite the cap-and-trade plan's origins as a business-friendly alternative to regulating pollution, the move is reading as a double-whammy for the conservative wing of the GOP. First, it addresses climate change, a scientific reality that some conservatives deny is happening. And second, it comes in the form of executive, rather than legislative action. The Heritage Foundation is already on alert about the proposal, still half a week from being made public: "The plan will drive up energy prices for American families and businesses without making a dent in global temperatures," the conservative think tank said on Thursday morning.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Natural Resources Defense Council have disagreeing assessments on the possible impact of an aggressive plan to cut emissions on American jobs: the chamber released a study on Wednesday saying that in theory, a plan could cut 224,000 jobs a year. But the NRDC said that the EPA's regulation would have the opposite effect: creating "hundreds of thousands" of jobs, Politico reported.
Since Monday's plan will hit just as congressional candidates are stepping up their midterm efforts, some Democrats in coal-heavy states are feeling the burn of industry radio ads claiming that the EPA regulation will "nearly double" energy prices in the country. That claim, by the way, was given "four Pinocchios" by the Washington Post's fact checker.