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Cold Feet? Obama Likely To Delay Carbon Rules For New Power Plants

Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post

The Obama administration is leaning toward revising its landmark proposal to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants, according to several individuals briefed on the matter, a move that would delay tougher restrictions and could anger many environmentalists.

The discussions center on the first-ever greenhouse gas regulations for power plants, which were proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency nearly a year ago. Rewriting the proposal would significantly delay any action, and might allow the agency to set a separate standard for coal-fired power plants, which are roughly twice as polluting as those fueled by natural gas.

While the move could bolster the administration’s legal justification for regulating power plants’ carbon emissions, any retreat on the rules would be a blow to environmental groups and their supporters, who constituted a crucial voting block for President Obama and other Democrats in last year’s elections.

Individuals familiar with the matter asked not to be identified because a final decision has not been made. The White House declined to comment.

Obama, who is visiting Argonne National Laboratory outside Chicago on Friday to tout his clean-energy agenda, has vowed to fight global warming by using his executive authority since congressional Republicans have blocked climate-change legislation. Regulating utilities represents the best opportunity for the president to cut the nation’s carbon output.

Last year, the EPA proposed the first-ever greenhouse gas standard for new power plants, which would require any new power plant to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour of electricity produced. The agency is supposed to finalize the rule by April 13 but is likely to miss that deadline, and officials are discussing with the White House how they might modify the proposal in order to ensure it can survive a legal challenge.

Environmentalists are particularly worried about finishing the standards for new power plants because they are less controversial than imposing carbon limits on the existing plants that emit 2.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year, or 40 percent of the nation’s carbon output. The Obama administration has yet to say if it will pursue that policy.

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