President Obama’s big carbon crackdown readies for launch

Prepare for energy prices to skyrocket as regulation costs are always passed on to the consumer.

The EPA will launch the most dramatic anti-pollution regulation in a generation early next month, a sweeping crackdown on carbon that offers President Barack Obama his last real shot at a legacy on climate change — while causing significant political peril for red-state Democrats.

The move could produce a dramatic makeover of the power industry, shifting it away from coal-burning plants toward natural gas, solar and wind. While this is the big move environmentalists have been yearning for, it also has major political implications in November for a president already under fire for what the GOP is branding a job-killing “War on Coal,” and promises to be an election issue in energy-producing states such as West Virginia, Kentucky and Louisiana.

The EPA’s proposed rule is aimed at scaling back carbon emissions from existing power plants, the nation’s largest source of greenhouse gases. It’s scheduled for a public rollout June 2, after months of efforts by the administration to publicize the mounting scientific evidence that rising seas, melting glaciers and worsening storms pose a danger to human society.

“This rule is the most significant climate action this administration will take,” said Kyle Aarons at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, one of a host of groups awaiting the rule’s release. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) has urged the EPA to “go ahead boldly” with the rule, saying the agency must step in where Congress has refused to act.

But for coal country, the rule is yet another indignity for an industry already facing a wave of power plant shutdowns amid hostile market forces and a series of separate EPA air regulations. Coal-state Democrats like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin have joined the criticism, echoing industry warnings that the fossil fuel was crucial to keeping the lights on in much of the U.S. during this past brutal winter.

…Despite opponents’ warnings that the rule will be a death sentence for coal-fired power, EPA leaders have been adamant that they’ll offer states ample “flexibility” to devise their own ways to cut carbon. Some states may join regional cap-and-trade networks, similar to an existing Northeastern compact that has co-existed with coal plants for years. Others could push for investments in wind and solar power, or in energy efficiency programs that help homeowners and businesses reduce their demand for electricity.

The rule, set to become final in mid-2015, would apply to the nation’s thousands of coal and natural gas-fired power plants. But coal — the cheapest, dirtiest and most abundant fossil fuel — would bear the heaviest burden.

That means its impact could be greatest in states like Kentucky, a major coal producer that gets as much as 90 percent of its power from the fuel — and which as recently as 2010 had the country’s lowest electricity prices. It’s also a crucial state in the 2014 Senate electoral calendar.

Full article: President Obama’s big carbon crackdown readies for launch (Politico)

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