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Coal power plant
The Environmental Protection Agency will roll out its draft carbon dioxide emissions rule for existing electricity-generating plants today. Although President Obama was originally slated to announce the rule personally, it will instead come from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, who announced a sister rule last year, that one governing emissions from future power plants.

By various accounts, the first one by Amy Harder published in The Wall Street Journal Sunday, the rule will mandate a 30 percent reduction of power-plant emissions of CO2 by 2030 over the 2005 base year. Since such emissions fell nearly 15 percent from 2005 to 2012, half the goal is already met. And since U.S. power plants are responsible for 32 percent of the nation's CO2 emissions, the 30 percent reduction being proposed would reduce overall emissions from all sources by 10 percent over 2005. Half of that already achieved, as Brad Johnson at Hillheat points out. Thus, the impact of the rule would be to reduce total emissions by five percent.

Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council—the organization whose ideas are said to have greatly influenced the EPA when drafting the new rule—praised it:

"The new carbon pollution standards will be good for our health, good for our economy and good for our children and all future generations," Ms. Beinecke said in a statement. "Time is running out, but today the president is reminding us that we have the solutions."
Hal Quinn, CEO of the National Mining Association, said on ABC's "This Week" program that the power-plant rules are, together with other policies “designed to drive out low-cost electricity and replace it with higher-cost, more expensive and less reliable electricity.” The Washington Post fact-checker, Glenn Kessler, awarded NMA four Pinocchios for its assertion last week that the rules would double electricity costs.

The existing power-plant rule is slated to be finalized in June 2015 and states must submit their compliance plans a year from then.

The direct impact will fall most heavily on the nation's 600 coal-fired power plants, many of which, perhaps most, will be shut down in the 15 years between 2016 and 2030. Cheers have already been heard from various environmental advocates, although there are those who believe that the proposed reduction doesn't go far enough fast enough. Boos can be expected from the fossil-fuel industry, coal-state Democrats, a few unions, and global warming deniers in Congress as well as industry-funded propaganda centers poorly disguised as "think-tanks"—such as the Heartland Institute.

Please read below the fold for more on this story.

The fight over the rule—as well as its sister rule for future power plants, which has not yet gone into effect—will be immense. We've already seen the first skirmish with the Chamber of Commerce saying last week that the rule, which had not yet been released, would cost billions in lost GDP and hundreds of thousands of lost jobs. Malarkey, replied spokespeople for the NRDC, whose own analysis claims the rule will create lots of jobs and boost the economy.

Coral Davenport at The New York Times reports:

Under the rule, states will be given a wide menu of policy options to achieve the pollution cuts. Rather than immediately shutting down coal plants, states would be allowed to reduce emissions by making changes across their electricity systems — by installing new wind and solar generation or energy-efficiency technology, and by starting or joining state and regional “cap and trade” programs, in which states agree to cap carbon pollution and buy and sell permits to pollute.

E.P.A. officials have said they hope the flexible approach will allow states to comply with the regulation more easily and cost-effectively, by adopting policies best tailored to regional economies and energy mixes. But industry groups planning to sue to block or delay the rule have said that approach makes the rule more legally vulnerable.

EPA's McCarthy said the rule will give states “flexibility to develop plans on how to achieve those reductions in a way that’s economically beneficial to them.” States will be allowed to “establish their own energy policies as long as the carbon pollution reductions that we are going to require in this rule actually are achieved.”

Much of the battle will be carried out in Congress and the media, with lobbying and arm-twisting and lawsuits. Less seen will be the efforts to get the rule changed before it is implemented via public comments that are automatically part of the finalization process and any tweaking EPA may engage in.

The number of public comments could be immense. The Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL pipeline, still being reviewed by the State Department, attracted 2.5 million public comments. McCarthy said in Seattle last month that the EPA had already received about 10,000 public comments on the proposed rule before the formal comment period has begun.

Comments from environmental organizations will almost certainly call for the rule to mandate larger emissions reductions to be achieved and sooner. For example, David Doniger at the NRDC has repeatedly pointed out that the organization's analysis shows a 35 percent reduction in emissions over the 2005 baseline could be achieved by 2020.

Even though the rule will not go into effect for two years, the dispute over it could have a negative impact on some Democrats in the midterm elections. On the other hand, Democrats such as West Virginia's Senate candidate Natalie Tennant and Kentucky's Alison Lundergan Grimes might gain voter support attacking the proposed rule, thus distancing themselves from a president who is extremely unpopular in both states.

In a statement, Tennant said, "I will fight President Obama and anyone else who tries to undermine our coal jobs." She said the government should wait until better technology is available to deal with emissions before any rules go into effect.

Jonathan Allen and Jim Snyder at Bloomberg/Business Week reported on a conference call between the president a selected Democrats aimed at drumming up support for the rule:

Obama dismissed complaints that the rule will hurt the economy by driving up electricity prices, and told the Democrats listening: “Please go on offense” to promote the plan’s benefits, said two people who were on the call, including Representative Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat.

Connolly and another person on the call said the president suggested that rather than having an adverse effect on the economy—as critics say—his rule to limit carbon pollution will boost the economy by $43 billion to $74 billion.

Greg Sargent noted Friday that some Democrats are ready to go on offense:
“This is an opportunity, and it’s really important that we engage it full throttle,” Dem Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a senior party strategist who is one of those pushing for an aggressive response, told me today. “Republicans can only gain traction if there is a timid response.”
But only a few incumbent Democrats seem capable of teaching their colleagues what aggressive means in a case like this. To succeed, they need to get on the stick now. They could start by setting an example and knocking down the outrageous, blinkered claims we'll be hearing today and months to come from fossil fools and their marionettes in Congress and the media.
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