In a speech given at Georgetown University on June 25, President Obama outlined his plan for executive action on climate change. President Obama’s Climate Action Plan is said to be a “broad-based plan to cut the carbon pollution that causes climate change and affects public health.” The plan points out that there is no federal rule preventing existing power plants from releasing carbon pollution, and there are no federal standards in place limiting carbon pollution emitted by power plants. As such, President Obama is issuing a presidential memorandum directing the EPA to work quickly to finalize carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants. President Obama’s plan states that “[c]utting carbon pollution will help spark business innovation to modernize our power plants, resulting in cleaner forms of American-made energy that will create good jobs and cut our dependence on foreign oil.”

The measures taken by the president to limit carbon production from existing power plants would not have been possible without a 2007 Supreme Court decision, which held that the EPA possesses the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, the EPA has been extremely active in imposing strict emission standards on new power plants. The president will follow the EPA’s lead by imposing the new limits on existing power plants through the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act.

The White House first announced that President Obama was preparing regulations limiting carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants on June 19. Placing limitations on existing power plants can be more complicated and expensive and has proven to be a contentious endeavor. President Obama’s proposal has already been met with opposition; Republicans have called Obama’s climate policy a government overreach that is hindering the economy. Furthermore, there are concerns that the ratepayers will be left on the hook to shoulder the costs of complying with these regulations, as the owners of existing power plants will simply pass the added costs of carbon taxes on to the ratepayers.