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Obama Aims To Tighten Restrictions On Plants' Greenhouse Gas Emissions


The White House is taking a big step today designed to address climate change and perhaps solidify President Obama's legacy on that issue. The administration is placing tough new restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. And the coal industry says it's ready for a legal fight over the new rules. NPR's Jeff Brady reports.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: The rules come just a few months before a U.N. conference on climate change in Paris. EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said during a conference call the new regulations will encourage other nations to reach an agreement there.


GINA MCCARTHY: When the United States leads, other nations follow. Since we proposed a rule last year, the U.S. has made joint announcements with China and Brazil, where each country made new commitments to cut carbon pollution.

BRADY: The EPA first proposed the regulations on power plants last summer. Since then, the coal industry and its supporters have vowed to block the plan, calling it too costly and likely illegal. The administration's response - a final plan that is even tougher than the draft. The plan would reduce carbon emissions by 32 percent of what they were in 2005. The deadline for accomplishing that is 2030.

States will have some flexibility in figuring out how to meet their goals. And under the final rule, they get two more years to comply. States that boost renewable sources of electricity, such as wind and solar, will get credits to offset future carbon pollution. Natural Resources Defense Council president Rhea Suh gives the new regulations a glowing review.

RHEA SUH: For decades, we've watched and worried as the dangers of climate change gather and grow. And really today, we are finally seeing action to strike back.

BRADY: The administration says its plan will save money - between 4 and 7 dollars - for every dollar it costs. Luke Popovich, a vice president at the National Mining Association, disputes that analysis.

LUKE POPOVICH: What the administration is proposing is to replace the most affordable sources of generating electricity with more costly forms of electricity.

BRADY: Popovich says his group will ask courts to put the new regulations on hold while legal challenges work through the courts. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from the coal state of Kentucky has called on governors since March to refuse to comply with the regulations. That sets the stage for a legal battle, one the administration says it can win. Jeff Brady, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jeff Brady is a National Desk Correspondent based in Philadelphia, where he covers energy issues and climate change. Brady helped establish NPR's environment and energy collaborative which brings together NPR and Member station reporters from across the country to cover the big stories involving the natural world.