WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is running out of time to make good on his lofty vow to confront climate change head-on, and Congress is in no mood to help.
Moving ahead on his own, Obama will announce a set of actions Tuesday that will take years to implement.
The centerpiece of the plan is a push to issue new regulations that would curb greenhouse-gas emissions from new and existing power plants, according to people briefed on the plan by the administration.
Other components will include energy efficiency, renewable energy sources and help for communities preparing for the effects of climate change.
“This is a serious challenge, but it’s one uniquely suited to America’s strengths,” Obama said Saturday in a White House video announcing the speech at Georgetown University.
Yet environmental activists are frustrated that Obama, despite deeming climate change a priority as far back as his first presidential campaign, waited until his fifth year in office to issue a detailed plan. In his State of the Union address in February, Obama gave lawmakers an ultimatum that if Congress wouldn’t pass climate legislation, he’d take action himself. Four months later, Obama appears to be done waiting.
“His view reflects reality,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday. “We’ve seen Congress attempt to deal with this issue, and fail to.”
In going it alone, Obama’s options are somewhat limited. But environmental activists say taking action to reduce the heat-trapping gases that coal-fired power plants emit would have the most impact. Forty percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, and one-third of greenhouse gases overall, come from electric power plants, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the Energy Department’s statistical agency.
The Environmental Protection Agency, using its authority under the Clean Air Act, has already proposed rules for new power plants, but those rules have been delayed. Although finalizing the rules for new plants would likely compel the government to eventually take similar action on existing plants, the Obama administration has until now insisted it’s focused on new plants.