WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is poised to unveil the first rules limiting carbon emissions from the thousands of power plants across the nation. The pollution controls form the cornerstone of President Barack Obama's campaign to combat climate change and a key element of his legacy.
Obama says the rules are essential to curb the heat-trapping greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. Critics contend the rules will kill jobs, drive up electricity prices and shutter plants across the country.
Environmentalists and industry advocates alike are eagerly awaiting the specifics, which the Environmental Protection Agency will make public for the first time on Monday and Obama will champion from the White House.
While the details remain murky, the administration says the rules will play a major role in achieving the pledge Obama made in Copenhagen during his first year in office to cut America's carbon emissions by about 17 percent by 2020.
Some questions and answers about the proposal:
Q: How does the government plan to limit emissions?
A: Unable to persuade Congress to act on climate change, Obama is turning to the Clean Air Act. The 1970s-era law has long been used to regulate pollutants like soot, mercury and lead but has only recently been applied to greenhouse gases.
Unlike with new power plants, the government can't regulate existing plant emissions directly. Instead, the government will issue guidelines for cutting emissions, then each state will develop its own plan to meet those guidelines. If a state refuses, the EPA can create its own plan.
Q: Why are these rules necessary?
A: Power plants are the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Environmentalists and the White House say without bold action, climate change will intensify and endanger the public's well-being around the world. In its National Climate Assessment this year, the administration said warming and erratic weather will become increasingly disruptive unless curtailed.
"This is not some distant problem of the future. This is a problem that is affecting Americans right now," Obama said earlier this month.
Of course, the United States is only one player in the global climate game. These rules won't touch carbon emissions in other nations whose coal plants are even dirtier. But the White House believes that leading by example gives the U.S. more leverage to pressure other countries to reduce their own emissions.