Washington Stymied in Congress, the Obama administration is moving unilaterally to clamp down on power plant and oil refinery greenhouse emissions, announcing plans for developing new standards over the next year.
In a statement posted on the agency’s website late Thursday, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson said the aim was to better cope with pollution contributing to climate change.
“We are following through on our commitment to proceed in a measured and careful way to reduce GHG pollution that threatens the health and welfare of Americans,” Jackson said in a statement. She said emissions from power plants and oil refineries constitute about 40 percent of the greenhouse gas pollution in this country.
President Barack Obama had said two days after the midterm elections that he was disappointed Congress hadn’t acted on legislation achieving the same end, signaling that other options were under consideration.
Jackson’s announcement came on the same day that the administration showed a go-it-alone approach on federal wilderness protection — another major environmental issue. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said his agency was repealing the Bush era’s policy limiting wilderness protection, which was adopted under former Interior Secretary Gale Norton.
On climate change, legislation in Congress putting a limit on heat-trapping greenhouse gases and allowing companies to buy and sell pollution permits under that ceiling — a system known as “cap and trade” — stalled in the Senate earlier this year after narrowly clearing the House. Republicans assailed it as “cap and tax,” arguing that it would raise energy prices.
But the Senate in late June rejected by a 53-47 vote a challenge brought by Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski that would have denied the EPA the authority to move ahead with the rules.
Jackson noted in Thursday’s statement that her agency that several state and local governments and environmental groups had sued EPA over the agency’s failure to update or publish new standards for fossil fuel plants and petroleum refineries. The announcement Thursday came in connection with a settlement of the suit the states brought against the EPA.
The EPA also announced Thursday that it was taking the unprecedented step of directly issuing air permits to industries in Texas, citing the state’s unwillingness to comply with greenhouse gas regulations going into effect Jan. 2.