Obama Aide Says Power-Plant Rule Will Be Stronger Than Proposal

(Bloomberg) — The Obama administration’s final plan to cut
power-plant emissions will be tougher than was proposed last
year, a top White House official said, as a document emerged
that showed the government will give states two additional years
to comply.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said the final
rule to fight climate change will be released soon, and will
have new provisions to boost solar, wind and other renewable
energy. President Barack Obama would veto any bill aimed at
stopping the plan that would cut carbon emissions, he said.

“There really is no overstating how big this year is for
climate change,” McDonough said Wednesday at a Washington forum
on the issue hosted by the New Republic. “We will finalize a
stronger rule.”

McDonough, who didn’t answer questions, spoke a day after
the Environmental Protection Agency posted a slide on its
website showing milestones to implement the standard. The one-page document, first disclosed by EnergyWire, showed the rule
taking effect in 2022, two years later than proposed last year.
Utilities and power producers have pushed for a longer phase in,
saying the 2020 initial deadline was unworkable.

The document, which has been removed from the EPA site,
said the rule would be released Aug. 3.

An EPA spokeswoman, Melissa Harrison, said the document was
a “Web design mockup” but declined to comment on the pending
release of the plan.

The first U.S. rules on carbon emissions from power plants
are among the most sweeping and complex in the EPA’s history,
and promise to upend a century of electricity generation and
distribution. They are the centerpiece of Obama’s fight to
combat climate change, the issue he’s made a top priority of his
final two years in the White House.

International Accord

McDonough said the power-plant rule would help promote an
international agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions later
this year. He said that deal should include measures to deliver
more stringent reductions over time.

The EPA’s standards for fossil-fuel power plants, the top
source of the emissions blamed for global warming, has drawn
fire from coal producers, manufacturers, state officials and
Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of
Kentucky. He has urged governors to refuse to submit plans to
meet the goals set out by the EPA.

The EPA has said it would back off the initial deadline to
give utilities more time to shut aging coal plants and adjust
the power distribution network to handle more natural gas or
renewable resources. A specific extension to 2022 hadn’t been
announced.

Solar, Wind

Even with more time, however, the final rule also could
change in a way that would reward states for accelerating their
pursuit of solar or wind projects. Environmentalists said the
agency undercounted the likely rate of expansion of renewables
and the pace of steps to be energy efficient. New estimates of
solar costs, which show a drop as production costs fall, could
also prompt a bigger share of renewable growth, they say.

The EPA also is considering a plan to give credit to
renewable projects that start before the rule kicks in. Under
the proposal issued last year, states would have an incentive to
wait until 2020 to begin new solar or wind projects. Advanced
Energy
Economy, which represents companies such as Alstom S.A.
and FirstSolar Inc., said states should be allowed to bank the
credits for those early reductions for use later.

The EPA plan isn’t the only climate issue roiling the White
House and the campaign of 2016 presidential Democratic
frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Clinton has dodged questions about
whether she would support the Keystone XL pipeline. North Dakota
Republican Senator John Hoeven said yesterday that Obama would
deny the permit for Keystone in August, citing sources he didn’t
identify.

Separately, the Obama administration approved Royal Dutch
Shell Plc
to explore for oil off Alaska’s coast in the Chukchi
Sea this year. Clinton told a interviewer in New Hampshire that
she is skeptical of Arctic drilling.

“I will be talking about drilling in general but I am
skeptical about whether we should give the go ahead to drill in
the Arctic,” Clinton told interviewer Paul Steinhasuer. “And I
don’t think it is a necessary part of our overall clean energy
climate change agenda.”

To contact the reporter on this story:
Mark Drajem in Washington at
mdrajem@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Jon Morgan at
jmorgan97@bloomberg.net
Steve Geimann

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