The Coming Climate Onslaught
The Obama administration is set to roll out a series of climate and pollution measures that rivals any president’s environmental actions of the past quarter-century — a reality check for Republicans who think last week’s election gave them a mandate to end what they call the White House’s “War on Coal.”
Tied to court-ordered deadlines, legal mandates and international climate talks, the efforts scheduled for the next two months show that President Barack Obama is prepared to spend the remainder of his term unleashing sweeping executive actions to combat global warming. And incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will have few options for stopping the onslaught, though Republicans may be able to slow pieces of it.
The coming rollout includes a Dec. 1 proposal by EPA to tighten limits on smog-causing ozone, which business groups say could be the costliest federal regulation of all time; a final rule Dec. 19 for clamping down on disposal of power plants’ toxic coal ash; the Jan. 1 start date for a long-debated rule prohibiting states from polluting the air of their downwind neighbors; and a Jan. 8 deadline for issuing a final rule restricting greenhouse gas emissions from future power plants. That last rule is a centerpiece of Obama’s most ambitious environmental effort, the big plan for combating climate change that he announced at Georgetown University in June 2013.
Obama announced yet another initiative Wednesday in Beijing, where he and Chinese President Xi Jinping jointly committed to targets for the two nations to curb their carbon emissions during the next two decades. And on top of all that, the administration is expected in the coming weeks to pledge millions of dollars — and possibly billions — to help poor countries deal with the effects of climate change.
The pending EPA actions alone could amount to the most ambitious burst of environmental regulatory activity from Washington since President George H.W. Bush approved a crucial set of amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1990 — although Obama’s administration has already taken several big strides of its own, including limits on mercury pollution from power plants.
The administration was committed to its upcoming deadlines many months ago, in some cases under court order, after postponing a number of the actions until after the 2012 or 2014 elections. Now that Obama is almost out of time, they’re coming all at once.