CLIMATE:

Browner-led White House group off to fast start -- Chu

A White House effort led by Carol Browner to coordinate energy and climate policy across federal agencies is off to a quick start, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said today.

Browner, the former EPA administrator, is President Obama's special assistant for energy and climate. She leads what Obama says will be strong steps to curb emissions of heat-trapping gases.

"We meet at least twice a month, and it is actually turning out to be probably once a week to really coordinate," so the "right and left hand" are in sync, Chu told reporters at a briefing hosted by the energy news and data company Platts.

The group that Browner chairs also includes top officials with the Council on Environmental Quality, the departments of Agriculture and Interior, and U.S. EPA.

Chu cited the group when asked about what many expect to be EPA steps to regulate heat-trapping gases under the Clean Air Act, and how this could affect plans for coal-fired power plants. He said he plans to talk about the matter with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

"I don't want to prejudge what EPA is going to rule on climate at the moment, but we will be certainly discussing this," he said.

Regulation of carbon dioxide under the clean air law would mark a sharp break from the Bush administration. Jackson said recently that the agency is close to deciding whether greenhouse gases represent a threat to human health.

In addition, EPA said this week that it would formally review a Bush administration memo describing why the government should not regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new coal plants (Greenwire, Feb. 17).

While the Obama administration mulls regulation of emissions under existing law, the president has called on Congress to pass a cap-and-trade law that would cut U.S. emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

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