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Obama to call for pollution curbs on existing power plants

June 22, 2013|By Neela Banerjee
  • Smoke rises from the stacks of the La Cygne Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant in La Cygne, Kan. President Obama says he'll unveil a national plan to combat climate change in a speech Tuesday.
Smoke rises from the stacks of the La Cygne Generating Station, a coal-fired… (Charlie Riedel / Associated…)

WASHINGTON – President Obama plans to call for curtailing emissions of carbon dioxide from existing power plants, the country’s single largest source of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, in a speech to outline sweeping new initiatives to address climate change, sources with knowledge of the proposal said Saturday.

The White House announced that Obama would make a speech on climate change on Tuesday afternoon at Georgetown University in Washington.

Under the president’s plan, the Environmental Protection Agency would be asked to develop rules setting emissions standards for existing power plants. The department is now putting the finishing touches on long-awaited regulations for new plants.

The Interior Department would be called on to increase the development of renewable energy on federal lands, said the sources, who asked not to be identified to discuss the plan before the president reveals it. The Energy Department would be tasked with issuing stricter energy efficiency standards on consumer goods, such as major appliances.

“This Tuesday at Georgetown University, I’ll lay out my vision of where I believe we need to go: a national plan to reduce carbon pollution, prepare our country for the impacts of climate change and lead global efforts to fight it,” Obama says in a 90-second video that alternates video of destructive storms, iconic American landscapes and clean-energy manufacturers.

Obama offered no details about what he will say. He called battling climate change a “serious challenge” but “one uniquely suited to America’s strengths,” arguing that American scientists, engineers and farmers will come up with new ways to reduce the country’s carbon dioxide emissions.

Starting about two weeks ago, Democratic donors who attended fundraisers on the West Coast began telling the media that the president spoke of an imminent announcement about a comprehensive approach to climate change.

In his inaugural speech and later in the State of the Union address, Obama called on Congress to act on cutting greenhouse gases. He warned that if Congress failed to take steps, he would. The ideas he is expected to lay out would not require congressional approval and could be executed instead by federal agencies.

Many members of Congress, especially Republicans, reject the idea that climate change is caused by human activity like burning fossil fuels.

Environmentalists welcomed news of the speech. “America is already paying a price as global warming fuels more damaging storms and dangerous heat waves,” said Margie Alt, executive director of Environment America. “Protecting our children from even more devastating consequences demands bold leadership. President Obama realizes this and we hope his plan will truly begin to safeguard our children’s future.” 

The speech is also expected to address efforts to deal with the effects of climate change that are already being felt. The average global temperature has risen by about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 150 years or so as industrialization and combustion of fossil fuels have spread.

Federal efforts to bolster community preparedness for extreme weather events are a fraction of what the government spends on cleaning up the damage from storms, tornadoes and drought.

“There is no single step that can reverse the effects of climate change,” Obama says in the video. “This is a challenge that affects everyone, and we all have a stake in solving it together.”

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