US delays power plant carbon curbs as protests grow

Administration agrees to extend consultations for 45 days to allow affected industries to analyse proposals 

(Pic: Taras Kalapun/Flickr)

(Pic: Taras Kalapun/Flickr)

By Ed King

US president Barack Obama has delayed a key part of his climate change plans, days before a major UN summit aimed at reducing global emissions.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it will extend a consultation period on proposed power plant carbon cuts by 45 days, until December 1.

Obama’s plans to force polluting energy plants to clean up their emissions are central to his domestic climate policy strategy.

Current proposals are aimed at cutting emissions 30% by 2030 on 2005 levels. The measures mean all coal power plants without carbon capture technology face an uncertain future.

But heavy lobbying from Republicans and energy companies has forced the administration to delay.

“Because of the strong amount of interest we’ve seen from stakeholders, we are announcing today that we are extending the comment period for an additional 45 days,” EPA acting administrator for air and radiation Janet McCabe told reporters yesterday.

According to the Guardian: “Some electricity companies had argued that the rules were extraordinarily complex, clocking in at about 1,600 pages, and they needed extra time to study the full implications.”

Lobby groups

Over 50 senators wrote to EPA chief Gina McCarthy last week, calling for more time for comments, while as Carbon Brief reports, some lawyers have already been assigned to look for flaws in the legislation.

It has become a campaign issue in upcoming midterm elections, with some Democrats in coal-rich regions joining Republicans in opposition to the policy.

Curbs on coal generation are expected to form a key plank of the USA’s contribution to global efforts to cut carbon emissions.

Leading economies have been asked to reveal their longer term climate strategies by March 2015, ahead of a global climate deal that is scheduled to be agreed in Paris later that year.

Delays to the coal regulations will tighten the timetable for the White House to finalise its offering to the UN.

US officials are understood to be willing to share their carbon reduction calculations with China later this year, before they are officially published.

Agreement between the world’s two biggest emitters is seen as key to ensure any global deal achieves its aim of limiting warming to below 2C. Beyond that threshold, scientists say impacts will be dangerous.

In 2009 the US agreed to cut carbon pollution 17% on 2005 levels by 2020 and indicated it would aim for a 30% reduction in 2025 and a 42% reduction in 2030.

Yesterday Obama welcomed a new international study backed by nine countries, which stressed effective climate policies can contribute to economic growth.

The research team, chaired by former Mexico president Felipe Calderon, said the world had 15 years left to act if it wanted to avoid dangerous levels of future warming.

In an interview with RTCC last week, former White House climate official Pete Ogden said despite vocal opposition, the administration was “fully capable” of enforcing its plans.

“The adminstration has always…even over the last year and a half – moved robustly forward with its own executive authority,” he said.

“It’s at every step of the game made it clear it would prefer to work in partnership with Congress on this issue, and so I think the offer will remain out there for a new Congress, much as it remains for this Congress.

“I think it’s just a question of whether or not it’s likely to be taken up. I think the administration is fully capable of carrying forth all of its climate plans without that cooperation.”

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