While the world looks onward as President Obama and his administration tackle a slew of controversies at home and abroad, the president and his administration seem to have the environment on their minds.
Obama is tackling global warming head-on in a new series of regulations to reduce carbon pollution. His plan calls for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to release its proposed rules for new power plants in September and rules for emissions from existing plants in June 2014.
A newly-released glimpse of new regulations recently proposed by the EPA preview a broad array of environmental restrictions, ranging from pollution runoff from military ships to increasing the gas mileage of heavy trucks. But one regulation to fight global warming is specifically taking center stage: reducing the amount of carbon that coal-fired power plants are allowed to emit.
In September, the EPA is planning to propose its own rules for greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants, and next June it will issue draft rules for existing facilities. These dates match up with Obamas timeline for the new regulations. But while the timelines may match up, analysts say it doesnt mean there wont be delays. Power-plant restrictions actually have a lengthy history of delays -- in 2012, the Obama administration revealed a draft rule for new power plants, but ended up delaying its finalization after more than 2 million comments were submitted by the public and lawmakers representing coal-producing states, according to The Daily Caller.
While the limitations have brought celebration from environmentalists who believe the regulations will help combat climate change, not everyone is happy with the new direction of Obamas regulations.
The limitations on coal plants have members of the coal industry up in arms because the regulations will be heavily restricting on the coal industry. New regulations would make it almost impossible to open any new coal plants and will shut down old ones.
"The regulations the president wants to force on coal are not feasible. And if it's not feasible, it's not reasonable," said Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
West Virginia is the second-largest producer of coal in the U.S. behind Wyoming, which produces 338,900 short tons of coal annually. The coal mining industry is important to the state -- it pumps millions of dollars into West Virginias economy every year, with coal exports growing nearly 40 percent from 2011 to 2012.
"It's simply unacceptable that one of the key elements of his climate change proposal places regulations on coal that are completely impossible to meet with existing technology," said Manchin. The president has declared war on coal.
The White House is trying to err on the side of caution so as to not ruffle too many feathers of members of the coal industry, but those close to Obama say it might be necessary. "Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they're having a war on coal," said one of Obama's climate advisers. "On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what's needed."
There are also concerns about the price of energy as a result of the regulations, and insiders say Americans will raise electricity prices and slow overall economic growth. Using wind and solar power to generate electricity is much costlier than using coal resources or natural gas for energy, potentially putting financial strain on government departments already suffering from sequestration.
But even if Obama can lessen the carbon emissions of the U.S., it may not make a huge difference worldwide, as greenhouse gas emissions remain high in developing countries like India and China where heavy pollution makes the air hard to breathe.
But President Obama intends to work with these countries to help get them on the right track to lower greenhouse gas emissions. China has already surpassed the level of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and India is not far behind. Both countries emissions have continued to increase over the years, while U.S. greenhouse gases have been on the decline since 2005.
Whether foreign countries choose to accept and follow an example set by the U.S. remains to be seen.
But EPA rules have a long history of delays for a variety of reasons. A prime example of delays is evident in the EPAs attempt to regulate waste. The agency has been trying to do so since 2007, but hasnt issued a real ruling on regulation since 2010.
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at firstname.lastname@example.org.