By Dina Capiello
WASHINGTON — Obama administration officials said Wednesday the Environmental Protection Agency would delay a final rule to control carbon dioxide emissions at new coal-fired power plants, thwarting for now one way the Republican-controlled Congress could have blocked the administration’s plans on global warming.
A final rule was due by law Thursday, a year after the rule was proposed. But EPA officials said Wednesday they would wait until midsummer and issue the new power plant rule with a separate regulation aimed at the existing coal-fired power fleet. That would put the rule weeks past the deadline set by President Barack Obama when he announced his second-term plans for climate in June 2013.
“This is all about the best policy outcome and the appropriate policy outcome,” said Janet McCabe, the acting administrator for air and radiation at the agency. “That is what we are talking about here, and that is why we think it is important to finalize these rules in the same time frame.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has vowed to overturn the emissions rules in short order to halt what he said is a war on coal, an industry important to his state but in decline there. McConnell tried in January 2014, when Democrats controlled the chamber, but Congress’ investigative arm said the effort, which relied on a rare procedural move, was premature and could not be attempted until the rule was final.
Don Stewart, a McConnell spokesman, said the new Republican majority could attack EPA rules by other means such as attaching amendments to must-pass spending bills.
“We will have a diverse approach,” Stewart said, “to the president’s job-killing regulatory overreach.”
The regulation sets the first national limit on the carbon dioxide released by new coal-fired power plants. That rule requires all new coal power plants capture some of the carbon and bury it underground. But even the EPA acknowledged in a proposal that the rule would have little effect on greenhouse gases because few new coal-fired power plants are planned.
Critics of the proposal have said that such technology has never been proven on a large scale, but a power plant in Canada in October was the first to be put in operation with so-called carbon-capture and sequestration technology.
EPA officials said Wednesday the agency also would issue by midsummer a federal compliance plan for the rules to be used by states as an example to draft their own plan. That plan also could be forced on states that choose not to comply. Numerous states already have sued the agency over that plan.