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.
“I think that actually preventing EPA from moving forward on the climate change regs will be a challenge,” said industry attorney Jeff Holmstead, who headed the agency’s air office during the George W. Bush administration.
If Congress tries to defang “high profile” regulations like those on carbon emissions, “we would expect the president to veto,” said Cal Dooley, a former Democratic member of Congress who heads the chemical industry’s trade association. “And I don’t expect that you’ll have a two-thirds vote in the Senate to override.”
Greens are counting on Obama to hold the line, especially on climate change.
“We are very confident that he will continue to take the common sense steps necessary to make this strong plan a reality,” League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski said in an email. “That may not please the climate change deniers, but it is the right thing to do for our health, our economy, and our security.”