Obama rule for power plants to compel steeper emissions cuts

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Can Obama's Carbon-Emission Plan Be As Strict As He Plans?

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Aiming to jolt the rest of the world to action, President Barack Obama moved ahead Sunday with even tougher greenhouse gas cuts on American power plants, setting up a certain confrontation in the courts with energy producers and Republican-led states.

In finalizing the unprecedented pollution controls, Obama was installing the core of his ambitious and controversial plan to drastically reduce overall U.S. emissions, as he works to secure a legacy on fighting global warming. Yet it will be up to Obama's successor to implement his plan, which reverberated across the 2016 presidential campaign trail.

Opponents planned to sue immediately, and to ask the courts to block the rule temporarily. Many states have threatened not to comply.

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President Obama in Ethiopia
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Obama rule for power plants to compel steeper emissions cuts
President Barack Obama listens during a joint news conference with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Monday, July 27, 2015, at the National Palace in Addis Ababa. Obama is the first sitting U.S. president to visit Ethiopia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome shake hands during a meeting at the National Palace, on Monday, July 27, 2015, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Obama is the first sitting U.S. president to visit Ethiopia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Barack Obama speaks during a joint news conference with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Monday, July 27, 2015, at the National Palace in Addis Ababa. Obama is the first sitting U.S. president to visit Ethiopia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
People stand on the side of the road and wave Ethiopian flags as they wait to greet US President Barack Obama upon his arrival in Addis Ababa, on 26 July 2015. Obama landed in Ethiopia on July 26, beginning a two-day stay and becoming the first American leader to visit Africa's second most populous nation. Air Force One touched down at Addis Ababa's international airport after a short flight north from the Kenyan capital Nairobi, and the president was greeted on the tarmac by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. AFP PHOTO / ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER (Photo credit should read ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER/AFP/Getty Images)
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (L) walks alongside US President Barack Obama during a welcoming ceremony at the National Palace in Addis Ababa on July 27, 2015. Barack Obama begins a two-day visit to Ethiopia, the first-ever trip by a US president to Africa's second-most populous nation and the seat of the African Union. AFP PHOTO / SIMON MAINA (Photo credit should read SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama reviews Ethiopian troops during a welcoming ceremony at the National Palace in Addis Ababa on July 27, 2015, prior to meeting with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. AFP PHOTO / SIMON MAINA (Photo credit should read SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama, center, participates in a bilateral meeting with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn at the National Palace, on Monday, July 27, 2015, in Addis Ababa. Obama is the first sitting U.S. president to visit Ethiopia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
U.S. President Barack Obama, third left, participates in a bilateral meeting with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, right, at the National Palace, on Monday, July 27, 2015, in Addis Ababa. Obama is the first sitting U.S. president to visit Ethiopia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Barack Obama is give a bouquet of flowers as he arrives at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, on Sunday, July 26, 2015, in Addis Ababa. Obama is the first sitting U.S. presidents to visit Ethiopia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
U.S President Barack Obama, center, meets Ethiopian officials as Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn, right, watches at Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Sunday, July 26, 2015. Obama is traveling on a two-nation African tour where he will become the the first sitting U.S. president to visit Kenya and Ethiopia. (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim)
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (R) speaks with US President Barack Obama (L) upon his arrival at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, on July 26, 2015. Obama begins a two-day stay in Ethiopia and becomes the first American leader to visit Africa's second most populous nation. The visit will include talks with the Ethiopian government, a key strategic ally but criticised for its record on democracy and human rights. AFP PHOTO / SIMON MAINA (Photo credit should read SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images)
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (R) stands alongside US President Barack Obama during the playing of the American National Anthem during a welcoming ceremony at the National Palace in Addis Ababa on July 27, 2015. Barack Obama begins a two-day visit to Ethiopia, the first-ever trip by a US president to Africa's second-most populous nation and the seat of the African Union. AFP PHOTO / SIMON MAINA (Photo credit should read SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama waves as he arrives at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, on Sunday, July 26, 2015, in Addis Ababa. Obama is the first sitting U.S. president to visit Ethiopia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Secret Service Agents watch through binoculars before USA President Barack Obama's arrival in Addis Ababa on July 26, 2015. Obama arrived in Africa on a five-day tour with stops in his father's homeland of Kenya, before traveling to Ethiopia. AFP PHOTO/SIMON MAINA (Photo credit should read SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images)
Ethiopians wait to greet US President Barack Obama upon his arrival in Addis Ababa, on 26 July 2015. Obama landed in Ethiopia on July 26, beginning a two-day stay and becoming the first American leader to visit Africa's second most populous nation. Air Force One touched down at Addis Ababa's international airport after a short flight north from the Kenyan capital Nairobi, and the president was greeted on the tarmac by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. AFP PHOTO / ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER (Photo credit should read ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER/AFP/Getty Images)
Security personal stand along the motorcade route of U.S. President Barack Obama as he drives to the National Palace to meet with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, on Monday, July 27, 2015, in Addis Ababa. Obama is the first sitting U.S. president to visit Ethiopia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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The Obama administration estimated the emissions limits will cost $8.4 billion annually by 2030. The actual price won't be clear until states decide how they'll reach their targets. But energy industry advocates said the revision makes Obama's mandate even more burdensome, costly and difficult to achieve.

"They are wrong," Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said flatly, accusing opponents of promulgating a "doomsday" scenario.

Last year, the Obama administration proposed the first greenhouse gas limits on existing power plants in U.S. history, triggering a yearlong review and more than 4 million public comments. On Monday, Obama was to unveil the final rule publicly at an event at the White House.

"Climate change is not a problem for another generation," Obama said in a video posted to Facebook. "Not anymore."

The final version imposes stricter carbon dioxide limits on states than was previously expected: a 32 percent cut by 2030, compared to 2005 levels, the White House said. Obama's proposed version last year called only for a 30 percent cut.

Immediately, Obama's plan became a point of controversy in the 2016 presidential race, with Hillary Rodham Clinton voicing her strong support and using it to criticize her GOP opponents for failing to offer a credible alternative.

"It's a good plan, and as president, I'd defend it," Clinton said.

On the Republican side, Marco Rubio, a Florida senator, predicted increases in electricity bills would be "catastrophic," while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called the rule "irresponsible and overreaching."

"Climate change will not be solved by grabbing power from states or slowly hollowing out our economy," Bush said.

Obama's rule assigns customized targets to each state, then leaves it up to the state to determine how to meet them. Prodded by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a number of Republican governors have said they simply won't comply. If states refuse to submit plans, the EPA has the authority to impose its own plan, and McCarthy said the administration would release a model federal plan that states could adopt right away.

Another key change to the initial proposal marks a major shift for Obama on natural gas, which the president has championed as a "bridge fuel" whose growing use can help the U.S. wean itself off dirtier coal power while ramping up renewable energy capacity. The final version aims to keep the share of natural gas in the nation's power mix at current levels.

Under the final rule, states will also have an additional two years - until 2022 - to comply, yielding to complaints that the original deadline was too soon. They'll also have an additional year to submit their implementation plans to Washington.

In an attempt to encourage earlier action, the federal government plans to offer credits to states that boost renewable sources like wind and solar in 2020 and 2021. States could store those credits away to offset pollution emitted after the compliance period starts in 2022.

Twenty to 30 states were poised to join the energy industry in suing over the rule as soon as it's formally published, said Scott Segal, a lobbyist with the firm Bracewell and Giuliani who represents utilities. The Obama administration has a mixed track record in fending off legal challenges to its climate rules. GOP leaders in Congress were also weighing various legislative maneuvers to try to block the rule.

The National Mining Association lambasted the plan and said it would ask the courts to put the rule on hold while legal challenges play out. On the other end of the spectrum, Michael Brune, the Sierra Club's executive director, said in an interview that his organization planned to hold public rallies, put pressure on individual coal plants and "intervene as necessary in the courts" to defend the rule.

By clamping down on emissions, Obama is also working to increase his leverage and credibility with other nations whose commitments he's seeking for a global climate treaty to be finalized later this year in Paris. As its contribution to that treaty, the U.S. has pledged to cut overall emissions 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025, compared to 2005.

"We're positioning the United States as an international leader on climate change," said Brian Deese, Obama's senior adviser.

Power plants account for roughly one-third of all U.S. emissions of the heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming, making them the largest single source.

Earlier on AOL.com:

Here's What's in the Clean Power Plan
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