Obama set to limit power plant carbon emissions. GOP pushes back

On Monday, the EPA is expected to set the first carbon pollution limits on existing US power plants. In this ongoing fight with the GOP, President Obama is emphasizing health benefits.

Matthew Brown/AP
In this July 2013 photo, smoke rises from the Colstrip Steam Electric Station, a coal burning power plant in Colstrip, Mont. The Obama administration is set to limit carbon emissions from US power plants.

President Obama and Republicans are about to butt heads – again – over carbon emissions, climate change, and the impact on the US economy. Not to mention the health of future generations of children.

On Monday, the administration through the EPA is expected to set the first carbon pollution limits on existing US power plants. Until now, such limits applied only to new plants.

States must come up with plans to reduce emissions by such means as cap-and-trade systems and deriving increased energy from renewable sources.

"This is a colossal proposal that should achieve the biggest carbon pollution reductions ever undertaken by the United States," Daniel Weiss of the left-leaning Center for American Progress told USA Today. "No president has ever proposed a climate pollution cleanup this big."

In fact, the proposals are in line with what’s already happening in some parts of the country.

“Nearly a dozen states are already implementing their own market-based programs to reduce carbon pollution,” Obama said in his weekly radio address Saturday. “And over 1,000 mayors have signed agreements to cut their cities’ carbon pollution.”

Speaking from the Children’s National Medical Center, rather than from the White House as usual, Obama emphasized the health benefits of reducing carbon emissions.

“In just the first year that these standards go into effect, up to 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks will be avoided – and those numbers will go up from there,” he said. “As President, and as a parent, I refuse to condemn our children to a planet that’s beyond fixing.”

White House officials have been fanning out across Washington and the country to build support and reassure those concerned about the coming rules, the Associated Press reports. Among those worried: a number of Democrats from conservative areas who have openly criticized the rules as they prepare for difficult re-election fights this fall.

Obama will echo his argument that the rules will benefit public health during a conference call Monday organized by the American Lung Association and other health groups.

Republicans, meanwhile, are dusting off their arguments against what they see as draconian environmental regulations harmful to the economy.

"We all want clean air and clean water," Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming (a major coal-producing state) said in the weekly GOP address. "We don't want costly regulations that make little or no difference, that are making things less affordable. Republicans want electricity and gas when you need it, at a price you can afford."

“The Administration has set out to kill coal and its 800,000 jobs. If it succeeds in death by regulation, we’ll all be paying a lot more money for electricity – if we can get it,” Sen. Enzi said. “Our pocketbook will be lighter, but our country will be darker."

Obama rejects such arguments.

"These excuses for inaction somehow suggest a lack of faith in American businesses and American ingenuity,” Obama said.

“The truth is, when we ask our workers and businesses to innovate, they do. When we raise the bar, they meet it,” he said. “When we restricted cancer-causing chemicals in plastics and leaded fuel in our cars, American chemists came up with better substitutes. When we phased out the gases that depleted the ozone layer, American workers built better refrigerators and air conditioners. The fuel standards we put in place a few years ago didn't cripple automakers; the American auto industry retooled, and today, they’re selling the best cars in the world, with more hybrids, plug-in, and fuel-efficient models to choose from than ever before.”

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