With President Obama scheduled to announce major greenhouse gas emissions regulations for existing power plants Monday, interest groups are pre-emptively weighing in on the potential impacts of the rule. On today's The Cutting Edge, Greenwire reporter Jean Chemnick previews the administration's rollout of the proposal. Chemnick talks about the heated debate developing among interest groups and discusses the role states will play in the process that emerges following the announcement.
Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to The Cutting Edge. President Obama is scheduled to announce major greenhouse gas emissions regulations for existing power plants on Monday. Greenwire's Jean Chemnick joins me with the details on what we can expect. Jean, what are the elements of the announcement that you're going to be watching most closely?
Jean Chemnick: Well, the first and foremost will be the target and how stringent the requirements are going to be for existing power plants. There has been a persistent rumor for the last couple of weeks that it will make an eventual 25 percent reduction in the fleet overall by some future year, but how stringent, how tough that is, how much reduction that gets, it really depends on the base-line year, what year you measure that against. If it's an earlier year that happens before the natural gas boom and all of these other changes that we've seen in the last decade, that would actually not be a very tough, you know, requirement, whereas a later year would be much more stringent.
Also the guidance that is going to come out on Monday is likely to have a menu of options or some parameters for what states can draw from in order to put together an implementation plan, whether renewables are going to be allowed, whether there's going to be a beyond-the-fenceline approach or whether it's going to just be changes that can be made on-site at the power plants.
Monica Trauzzi: And a big focus of the debate on the rule has been surrounded by economics. The Chamber of Commerce made news this week with a report on the economics of the rule, and the administration fired back saying the report was irresponsible speculation. The rule hasn't even come out yet. How concerned is industry about Monday's announcement, and how do you anticipate the debate will establish itself once the rule comes out?
Jean Chemnick: Well, industry is obviously very concerned about this rule and also the new power plant rule which came out earlier, in the last year. Yes, you mentioned the Chamber of Commerce report that came out this week, which got a lot of headlines and it had very -- it estimated very, very high costs, both in jobs and dollars from the existing power plant rule, but it's true that it was not based on the actual proposal, which almost no one has seen. It sort of extrapolated from another proposal that's been out there for a while, but -- and that was the administration's beef with it was that it wasn't really going on what they've already -- what they have put together. But even before that report came out, the chamber had worked with the National Association of Manufacturers and others to sort of lay the groundwork for opposition to a rule that they feel is burdensome to industry, and the National Mining Association has also sponsored a bunch of ads saying that it will lead to price hikes and power -- higher power rates.
Monica Trauzzi: So is this going to be debated on jobs or the environmental impacts of the rule?
Jean Chemnick: Well, this is all happening in a midterm year, and Republican, you know, action committees have sort of shown that they are likely to tie vulnerable Democratic incumbents to these rules and show these rules to be -- argue that these rules are going to hurt job creation in their districts and states. So that's definitely a message that is going to be out there.
Monica Trauzzi: There are many behind-the-scenes conversations happening between states right now on how exactly they're going to comply. What role do you think will emerge for states as the process moves forward?
Jean Chemnick: The Clean Air Act actually assigns states a leading role in deciding how these rules will be implemented, and the EPA has said repeatedly that states are a partner and that they are crafting a very flexible rule that will allow states to really take the lead in moving this forward but, you know, states are already starting to lay the groundwork for that, and there are even discussions about new regional partnerships of some kind to help, you know, facilitate some of these rules and maybe lower the cost of complying with them.
Monica Trauzzi: This is a difficult political dance for President Obama. He wants climate to be a priority, but at the same time, he's still dealing with a tough economy. How do you think the messaging is going to evolve, and what is the administration going to do to try to drum up some public support on this rule?
Jean Chemnick: Well the administration has shown that it's really -- the president himself has shown that he's really willing to take the lead in messaging on this issue. I mean, he made climate change adaptation a centerpiece early in the year during a speech in California. He, you know, participated in the rollout of the National Climate Assessment where he did one-on-one interviews with meteorologists, and he is, which is unusual, he is going to be involved in Monday's rollout in some way, which sort of highlights the importance of this issue, and he always is talking about what he sees as the cost of not combating climate change, and he's making the case that, you know, there will be costs to the country if emissions don't go down, so that's the urgency of this rule.
Monica Trauzzi: All right, Jean. I look forward to reading your coverage on Monday. Thanks for coming on the show.
Jean Chemnick: Thanks.
Monica Trauzzi: More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We'll see you then.
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