The Times West Virginian

Headline News

June 26, 2013

Obama: ‘Need to act’ on climate change

Controls on new and existing power plants at the core of president’s plan

WASHINGTON — Appealing for courageous action “before it’s too late,” President Barack Obama launched a major second-term drive Tuesday to combat climate change and secure a safer planet, bypassing Congress as he sought to set a cornerstone of his legacy.

Abandoning his suit jacket under a sweltering sun at Georgetown University, Obama issued a dire warning about the environment: Temperatures are rising, sea level is climbing, the Arctic ice is melting and the world is doing far too little to stop it. Obama said the price for inaction includes lost lives and homes and hundreds of billions of dollars.

“As a president, as a father and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act,” Obama said. “I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing.”

At the core of Obama’s plan are new controls on new and existing power plants that emit carbon dioxide — heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming. The program also will boost renewable energy production on federal lands, increase efficiency standards and prepare communities to deal with higher temperatures. Obama called for the U.S. to be a global leader in the search for solutions.

But Obama’s campaign will face extensive obstacles, including a complicated, lengthy process of implementation and the likelihood that the limits on power plants will be challenged in court. Likewise, the instantaneous political opposition that met his plan made clear the difficulty the president will face in seeking broad support.

“There will be legal challenges. No question about that,” former EPA Administrator Christie Whitman said in an interview. “It’s a program that’s largely executive. He doesn’t need Congress. What that does, of course, is make them (opponents) madder.”

Obama also offered a rare insight into his deliberations on whether to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline, deeming it in America’s interests only if it doesn’t worsen carbon pollution. Obama has faced intense political pressure from supporters and opponents of the 1,200-mile pipeline from Canada to Texas.

Declaring the scientific debate over climate change and its causes obsolete, Obama mocked those who deny that humans are contributing to the warming of the planet.

“We don’t have time for a meeting of the flat-earth society,” Obama said.

Obama’s announcement followed years of inaction by Congress to combat climate change. A first-term effort by Obama to use a market-based approach called cap-and-trade to lower emissions failed, and in February a newly re-elected Obama issued lawmakers an ultimatum in his State of the Union: “If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.”

Four months later, impatient environmental activists reveled in the news that Obama was finally taking matters into his own hands, announcing a series of steps that don’t require congressional approval.

“This is the change we have been waiting for,” said Michael Brune, who runs the Sierra Club, an environmental group. “Today, President Obama has shown he is keeping his word to future generations.”

Republicans on both sides of the Capitol dubbed Obama’s plan a continuation of his “war on coal” and “war on jobs. The National Association of Manufacturers claimed Obama’s proposals would drive up costs. Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito of the coal-heavy state of West Virginia slammed what she called Obama’s “tyrannical efforts to bankrupt the coal industry.”

“The federal government should leave us the hell alone,” said Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, whose agency handles Texas’ environment and energy markets.

Even industry groups that have been friendly to Obama and supportive of his climate goals, such as the Edison Electric Institute, which represents power plants, signaled their apprehension by calling for “achievable compliance limits and deadlines.”

Obama said the same arguments have been used in the past when the U.S. has taken other steps to protect the environment.

“That’s what they said every time,” Obama said. “And every time, they’ve been wrong.”

Obama broke his relative silence on Keystone XL, explicitly linking the project to global warming for the first time in a clear overture to environmental activists who want the pipeline nixed. The pipeline would carry carbon-intensive oil from Canadian tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast refineries and has sparked an intense partisan fight.

“Our national interest would be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution,” Obama said.

The White House indicated Obama was referring to overall, net emissions that take into account what would happen under alternative scenarios. A State Department report this year said other methods to transport the oil — like rail, trucks and barges — could yield even higher emissions.

“The standard the president set today should lead to speedy approval of the Keystone pipeline,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Announcing he will allow more renewable energy projects on public lands, Obama set a goal to power the equivalent of 6 million homes by 2020 from sources like wind and solar, effectively doubling the current capacity. The set of actions also includes a new set of fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty trucks, more aggressive efficiency targets for buildings and appliances, and $8 billion in federal loan guarantees to spur innovation.

By far the most sweeping element — and the one likely to cause the most consternation — is new limits on carbon dioxide pollution from power plants.

The administration has already proposed rules for new coal-fired plants, but they have been delayed amid industry concerns about the cost. A presidential memorandum Obama issued Tuesday directs the EPA to revise and reissue the new plant rules by September, then finalize them “in a timely fashion.”

The key prize for environmental groups comes in Obama’s instruction that the EPA propose rules for the nation’s existing plants by June 2014, then finalize them by June 2015 and implement them by June 2016 — just as the presidential campaign to replace Obama will be in full swing.

Rather than issue a specific, uniform standard that plants must meet, the EPA will work with states, power sector leaders and other parties to develop plans that meet the needs of individual states and also achieve the objective of reducing emissions.

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • George Harrison memorial tree killed by beetles

     A tree planted in Los Angeles to honor former Beatle George Harrison has been killed — by beetles.

    July 23, 2014

  • ‘X-Men’ VR experience coming to Comic-Con

    Comic-Con attendees will have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to enter the mind of Professor X.
    20th Century Fox has created an “X-Men”-themed virtual reality stunt especially for the pop-culture convention, which kicks off Thursday in San Diego. The interactive digital experience utilizes the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, which is not yet available to consumers, to simulate the fictional Cerebro technology used to track down mutants by the character portrayed by Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy in the “X-Men” films.

    July 23, 2014

  • Centenarian Weather W_time2.jpg At 101, weather observer gets a place in the sun

    It takes only a couple of minutes, twice a day, but 101-year-old Richard Hendrickson is fiercely proud that he has done the same thing for his country and community nearly every day since Herbert Hoover was in the White House in 1930.
    The retired chicken and dairy farmer, whose home sits in the heart of the ritzy Hamptons, has been recording daily readings of temperature and precipitation on eastern Long Island longer than any volunteer observer in the history of the National Weather Service.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Starved Pennsylvania 7-year-old weighed only 25 pounds

    A 7-year-old Pennsylvania boy authorities described as being so underweight he looked like a human skeleton has been released from the hospital.

    July 22, 2014

  • U.S. outlines case against Russia on downed plane

    Video of a rocket launcher, one surface-to-air missile missing, leaving the likely launch site. Imagery showing the firing. Calls claiming credit for the strike. Recordings said to reveal a cover-up at the crash site.

    July 21, 2014

  • James Garner Obit.jpg 'Maverick' star James Garner, 86, dies in California

     Actor James Garner, whose whimsical style in the 1950s TV Western "Maverick" led to a stellar career in TV and films such as "The Rockford Files" and his Oscar-nominated "Murphy's Romance," has died, police said. He was 86.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Given life term, drug offender hopes for clemency

    From the very start, Scott Walker refused to believe he would die in prison.
    Arrested and jailed at 25, then sent to prison more than two years later, Walker couldn’t imagine spending his life behind bars for dealing drugs. He told himself this wasn’t the end, that someday he’d be released. But the years passed, his appeals failed and nothing changed.

    July 20, 2014

  • Teen’s death puts focus on caffeine powder dangers

    A few weeks before their prom king’s death, students at an Ohio high school had attended an assembly on narcotics that warned about the dangers of heroin and prescription painkillers.
    But it was one of the world’s most widely accepted drugs that killed Logan Stiner — a powdered form of caffeine so potent that as little as a single teaspoon can be fatal.

    July 20, 2014

  • Monitors try to secure Ukraine plane crash site

    International monitors moved gingerly Saturday through fields reeking of the decomposing corpses that fell from a Malaysian airliner shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine, trying to secure the sprawling site in hopes that a credible investigation can be conducted.
    But before inspectors ever reach the scene, doubts arose about whether evidence was being compromised.

    July 20, 2014

  • Without radar, missile may not have identified jet

    If Ukrainian rebels shot down the Malaysian jetliner, killing 298 people, it may have been because they didn’t have the right systems in place to distinguish between military and civilian aircraft, experts said Saturday.
    American officials said Friday that they believe the Boeing 777 was brought down by an SA-11 missile fired from an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

    July 20, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads