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Obama’s Steep New Emissions Rules Praised as ‘Great Advance,’ Scorned as ‘Power Grab’

The president unveiled the White House's strongest ever plan to combat climate change on Monday.
August 3, 2015, 9:07pm
Photo by Justin Lane/EPA

President Obama's introduction of the final draft of his Clean Power Plan on Monday was met with mixed responses, as the White House hailed the proposal as their "biggest and most important step we've ever taken" to combat climate change yet.

The revised Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines require that states cut carbon emissions from plants by 32 percent from their 2005 levels by 2030. The plan also introduces incentives for renewable energy alternatives, including solar and wind power.

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"The EPA is setting the first ever nationwide standards to end the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from power plants," Obama said from the White House on Monday afternoon. "Washington is starting to catch up with the vision of the rest of the country."

"Power plants are the single biggest source of harmful carbon pollution that contributes to climate change," Obama said in a video released by the White House on Sunday detailing the regulations. "Until now, there have been no federal limits to the amount of carbon pollution plants dump in the air."

"For the sake of our kids, for the health and safety of all Americans, that's about to change," he added.

BREAKING: On Monday, — The White House (@WhiteHouse)August 2, 2015

The new guidelines are a slightly stronger version of the EPA rules Obama introduced in 2014 that sought to cut greenhouse emissions by 30 percent from carbon-producing plants.

Power plants are responsible for a third of total carbon emissions in the US, according to the EPA, and this is higher than any other sector. Congress passed the Clean Air Act in 1990, which gives the EPA authority to set standards for air quality by limiting soot and other toxic polluters. But Obama's revised guidelines mark the first time that carbon emissions from businesses will be federally regulated and enforced.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a video released Monday that the plan will protect public health, strengthen the economy, reduce energy costs, and "steer us to where the world is headed, not looking back at where its been."

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According to the White House, the plan will allow for states to create individual plans to meet the emission standards based on their energy consumption. State plans are due by 2016 and they are required to start cutting emissions by 2022.

The new regulations were met with both praise and scorn. Many climate change activists hailed the plan as a bold step by Obama and his last ditch effort to bring serious environmental change before his second term is up.

"This is the greatest advance we've ever made as a nation to fight the central environmental challenge of our time," Bob Deans, a spokesperson for the National Resource Defense Council, told VICE News. "We're going to have 900 million tons of carbon pollution averted every year. That's the climate change protection equivalent of parking 70 percent of the cars in the country."

But others, including many Republican leaders, warn that the plan will hamper businesses with burdensome regulations. In March of this year, Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell sent a letter to the governors of all fifty states telling them to ignore the proposed guidelines, calling it a "power grab" by the EPA.

GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee used similar language in a series of tweets on Monday, calling the new regulations "a handout to Chinese businesses, Arab oil sheiks, Russian energy despots, & Washington insiders detached from reality."

How can this administration pretend to care about Americans then unleash an executive power grab that will kill 1.4 million American jobs?

— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee)August 3, 2015

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Deans notes that most of the opponents to Obama's plan are politicians who are closely tied with the fossil fuel industry — which spent more than $720 million over the past two years to fight the tighter regulations.

The president's renewed effort to combat climate change is inspired in part by the bouts of extreme weather that have been recorded in the past several years. The 14 warmest years on record have occurred in the past 15 years, said the White House. The Middle East is currently experiencing one of the worst heat waves in recorded history, with temperatures reaching 164 degrees in Iran over the weekend. More than 1,200 people died as a result of extreme heat wave in Pakistan earlier this summer.

"Five years from now, our children aren't going to be saying, boy why did the president do this?" Deans asked. "They're going to be saying, what took you so long? And they're going to say thanks for getting started now. That's what makes this day historic."

Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @obecker928

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