In a speech today at Georgetown University, President Obama unveiled his Climate Action Plan which focuses, at least in part, on promulgating greenhouse gas (GHG) rules for new and existing power plants. More specifically, the President directed U.S. EPA to promulgate regulations that limit GHG emissions at existing power plants. The President also directed U.S. EPA to re-propose New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for newly constructed power plants. U.S. EPA had previously issued proposed NSPS rules in April 2012; however, U.S. EPA had missed its one-year deadline for issuing a final NSPS for new coal- and natural gas-fired utilities.

Other key elements of the President's Climate Action Plan include:

  • An end to public financing of coal-fired power plants abroad that do not include carbon capture and sequestration technology, except in developing nations where no viable alternatives exists;
  • Setting a target for the Department of Interior to double renewable energy production on public lands (from 10 gigawatts to 20 gigawatts) by 2020;
  • Directing federal agencies to streamline the siting, permitting and review process for electricity transmission projects;
  • Directing U.S. EPA and the Department of Transportation to work on a second round of heavy-duty vehicle emission limits for post-2018 model years;
  • Making available up to $8 billion in loan guarantees for advanced fossil energy projects that are intended to avoid, reduce, or sequester anthropogenic emissions of GHGs;
  • Directing federal agencies to ensure that new roads and other taxpayer-funded projects are built to withstand extreme weather events and anticipated rising sea levels;
  • Establishing a new energy efficiency standards goal for consumer products;
  • Efforts to craft a free trade agreement on environmental goods and services that will seek to lower tariffs and other market barriers;
  • Initiatives to curb emissions of hydrofluorocarbons and methane; and
  • Directing agencies to focus on the impacts of climate change in key sectors, including health, transportation, food supplies, oceans and coastal communities and implement strategies to mitigate the impact of climate change on these key sectors.

Both sides of the debate are already weighing in with environmental groups praising the President's Climate Action Plan and industry groups arguing that the plan will hike energy costs and harm the poor while having little effect on GHG emissions globally. During his speech, the President also commented on the Keystone pipeline, noting that "our national interest will only be served if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon polllution" and "that the net effects of the pipeline's impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward."