Dems to Obama: You should really exercise some executive action on climate change

posted at 6:01 pm on January 24, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

President Obama’s conspicuous mentions of his born-again climate-change priorities in his second inaugural on Monday seemed at least partially designed to reassure the environmental lobby that his neglect of their favorite climate and energy issues since the start of the presidential campaign season is officially over. How much the president can really do for their pet interests, however, is up in the air — much like the gun-control debate, the president can’t ‘accomplish’ major items like cap-and-trade or international emissions treaties without the approval of Congress.

As we’re all painfully aware, however, the president has plenty of other means at his disposal for shaping environmental and energy policy — and certain Democrats are encouraging to go full throttle on the executive actions and administrative fiat on the climate-change front.

“Congress has not been interested in acting, especially in the House, in the last two years. So we’re calling on the president to develop a plan for the administration to take action without action without Congress. … That may well spur Congress to act,” Waxman, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told reporters Thursday. …

Noting that, Whitehouse, Waxman and Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) laid out a menu of options for executive action on climate change in a Thursday letter to Obama. Among them were moves federal agencies could take to curb greenhouse gas emissions and enlisting national laboratories to pump out clean-energy technology.

The letter referenced using “broad authorities to lower heat-trapping emissions,” an allusion to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to regulate emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The green lobby, of course, is totally on board with skirting Congress, and they want President Obama to both talk the talk and walk the walk:

Environmental advocacy groups hope President Barack Obama will live up to the words of his second inaugural address that put climate change front and center on the national agenda even though he rarely mentioned it during the presidential campaign.

But the same advocates, including the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, say the president should use the power of the executive branch to further those aims rather than pursuing a congressional strategy. …

“Congress is a place where good ideas go to die,” she said. “There is a tremendous amount that his administration can do without Congress. He has the authority; he doesn’t have to wait for Congress.”

So far, that seems to be precisely what the White House has in mind: More of the same EPA regulations, green-energy subsidies, and bureaucratic approaches of yester-term are going to be the order of the day, so as to avoid too many job-killing restrictions at once and still dance around the soothing “all-of-the-above” approach they’ve been touting for awhile now. Weaksauce:

Energy insiders say the White House will dribble out executive actions and federal rules over the next four years  — the same low-key, bureaucratic approach the administration has taken since 2009. …

“He led off with climate change. I don’t think you can ask for more than that,” said the official, who also urged caution about not expecting too much too soon. “A little bit of patience is warranted, but there has been a lot of strategy work going on.” …

Most important, EPA will be rolling out standards for new power plants beneficial to natural gas and that would essentially ban construction of new coal units. A second set of rules is also coming for aging electric utilities. There’s no schedule yet for finishing either set of regulations, though a senior Obama administration official said there’s reason to stretch it out to force opponents to the table.


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