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Obama’s UN Climate Pledge Could Be Undone By Legal & Legislative Challenges

Mark Drajem, Bloomberg

President Barack Obama’s pledge to the United Nations Tuesday to sharply cut greenhouse-gas emissions relies on being able to rebuff legal and legislative challenges — and the continuing availability of cheap natural gas.

It’s no slam dunk. A coal-industry suit over the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to force reductions in emissions from power plants is set for argument in federal court next month, and Republican leaders are prodding states to refuse to implement the rules in any case. More court challenges are likely after the rule gets finalized this year.

Efforts to cut methane emissions from oil and gas drilling, raise mileage standards for trucks and increase the efficiency of household appliances all face their own challenges, and some may be undone by a future president who doesn’t share Obama’s conviction that fighting global warming should be a top priority. 

“The administration is taking the first steps,” said Peter Ogden, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington and former White House climate adviser. “The challenge for getting all the way there will be one for future administrations and future Congresses.”

Obama, who made fighting climate change a priority in his second term, submitted Tuesday a plan he outlined in November to slash U.S. greenhouse gases by more than a quarter over the next decade. The filing with the UN is intended to boost talks among 190 nations that are set to conclude in Paris this December with an agreement on how each nation will tackle the issue in 2020 and beyond. […]

Court Test

“The harder part is getting the policymakers to stick with it,” Webber said. “I’m optimistic, even though I have no reason to be.”

The power plant rule faces its first court test next month, and the final rule, set to come out within the next six months, is likely to be litigated all the way to the Supreme Court, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said Monday. Harvard University law professor Laurence Tribe, who was hired by coal producer Peabody Energy Corp., argues the rule violates the Constitution and should be tossed out by the courts.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from coal-rich Kentucky, has urged states not to implement plans to meet the EPA goals, which could complicate the so-called Clean Power Plan.

“Even if the job-killing and likely illegal Clean Power Plan were fully implemented, the United States could not meet the targets laid out in this proposed new plan,” McConnell said Tuesday in a statement. “Our international partners should proceed with caution before entering into a binding, unattainable deal.”

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