By Zack Colman, THE HILL - 07/01/13 12:05 PM ET
The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday sent its revised greenhouse gas emissions rule for new power plants to the White House, The Hill has confirmed.
The contents of the proposed rule, which now rests in the White House Office of Management and Budget, remain sealed.
While its substance is unknown, moving the rule puts the climate plan President Obama announced last week into motion.
“EPA is moving forward on the President's plan to address carbon pollution from power plants using the same Clean Air Act tools that have protected Americans' health and environment from air pollution for a generation. For newly built power plants, the plan calls for EPA to issue a new proposal by September 20, 2013. As part of this process, EPA has sent the new proposal for interagency review,” the EPA told The Hill in an email.
OMB and other agencies will now assess the revised rule and later return it to the EPA.
The EPA had missed an April deadline for finalizing the rule for yet-to-be built plants. The agency said it needed time to review the 2 million public comments the rule invited, though insiders say the EPA pulled back to tinker with it in hopes of withstanding legal challenges from industry.
The tweaked rule is expected to establish separate emissions standards for coal- and natural-gas fired power plants. The original version didn't differentiate between fuel sources, which rankled the utility industry.
The original draft rule effectively barred construction of new coal-fired power plants unless they include state-of-the-art technology that traps and then stores carbon pollution underground.
It earned plaudits from Democrats, greens and public health advocates who say it will stymie the effects of climate change and improve health. But Republicans, some coal-state Democrats and industry charge the rule is too harsh, contending it will cripple the economy through higher energy prices.
Monday's action by the EPA, first reported by Politico, could portend to quick movement on a rule for existing power plants, as the agency had until Sept. 20 to send up its revised rule for new facilities.
The rule for existing power plants is the centerpiece of the strategy Obama outlined last week.
Obama set a June 2014 deadline for EPA to release a draft rule, which must be enacted by June 2015.
Industry and Republicans are likely to protest such standards, arguing they’ll slow the economy and are overly burdensome for utilities to meet.
They say emissions rules — whether for new or existing facilities — rely too heavily on costly carbon capture and sequestration technology that is not yet affordable enough widespread deployment.
The Obama administration has deflected attacks from the right — as well as from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — that it’s embarked on a “war on coal.”
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has made the rounds in the press recently to underscore that Obama's plan includes $8 billion in loan guarantees for developing carbon capture and sequestration technology.