Obama Climate Rule Said to Shrink Difference in Goals for States

The Obama administration will reduce the differences among state goals in a landmark climate change rule, addressing complaints from states such as Arizona and Florida, according to people familiar with the plan.

The rule from the Environmental Protection Agency to force cuts in greenhouse gases from power plants is the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s plan to address global warming. Outside supporters are getting invitations to attend a ceremony at the White House on Monday to announce the plans.

“It’s a simple idea that will change the world: cut carbon pollution today so our kids won’t inherit climate chaos tomorrow,” Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement Saturday. “That’s what this historic plan will achieve.”

Power plants burning coal produce almost 40 percent of the nation’s electricity, and release the most carbon dioxide for every kilowatt generated. The EPA’s plan is among the most complex in agency history, and promises to upend a century of electricity generation while taking the biggest step yet by the U.S. to address global warming.

The general EPA plan is actually a set of targets for each of the 49 states with power plants that use coal or natural gas. (Vermont doesn’t have one.) Each state will have to submit plans to the agency by 2018 on how it will achieve the EPA-mandated goal, which begin to bite in 2022 and phase in through 2030.

Coal-Heavy States

The EPA’s initial proposal would have forced states like Arizona, which have a lot of natural-gas plants and scope for renewable power growth, to make cuts in emissions of more than 50 percent by 2030.

Meanwhile, coal-heavy states such as Kentucky, West Virginia, Wyoming and Montana faced cuts of 21 percent or less. The EPA is tweaking its forecasts for the amount of natural gas and renewable energy growth it estimates can be accomplished in those states, according to two people briefed on the plans. They asked not to be identified discussing the details before the plan is released.

The White House has said that while it’s backing off on an initial deadline for the rule, and making other changes to help states, the final plan will be stronger than what was proposed in 2014. EPA is also introducing a plan meant to provide incentives to states to increase the use of solar and wind energy, an administration official said earlier.

EPA will drop the formula that relied on gains from energy efficiency to set state goals, according to an administration official. Without other changes, that would reduce the stringency on power producers. EPA also faces pressure to delete a provision that assumed nuclear plants under construction would be completed on schedule. That would make it easier for Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina to comply.

How the agency will deal with carbon-free nuclear power is another key question that is looming for industry representatives.

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