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Green Lobby Groups Disappointed About Obama’s Emissions Fudge

Clare Foran, National Journal

Green groups are publicly praising the President Obama’s global-warming rules, but the plan doesn’t go as far as many had hoped—and the groups are preparing a fight to toughen the administration’s proposed carbon cuts.

The Environmental Protection Agency released draft regulations on Monday that the agency says would cut power plants’ greenhouse-gas emissions by 30 percent from their 2005 levels by 2030.

Green groups are flummoxed over the use of the 2005 baseline, which is more in line with what power-plant operators asked for than what environmentalists demanded.

Here’s why: Carbon emissions from the U.S. power sector have fallen since 2005, a decrease attributable to the economic downturn and a switchover to natural gas and away from carbon-heavy coal. Given that decline, environmentalists lobbied the administration for cuts relative to a more recent baselines year, when emissions were lower than in 2005, because that would represent a greater total reduction.

But that’s not what the greens got.

And as result of the administration’s 2005 baseline, power plants are already well on their way to meeting the target. According to EPA, carbon pollution from electricity generation decreased by 16 percent from 2003 to 2012, a reduction that registers as roughly half of the 30 percent target mandated by the regulation.

That’s left some environmentalists disappointed. “It sounds like a riddle: When is 30 percent not really 30 percent? When it’s 30 percent of an inflated baseline,” said Frank O’Donnell, the president of Clean Air Watch.

The next step, green groups say, is to press the administration for a more stringent standard. The rule isn’t expected to be finalized until June 2015—and between now and then, EPA will be the subject of massive lobbying efforts from greens and industry advocates alike.

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