WASHINGTON – President Obama on Monday announced new regulations on power-plant carbon emissions that will have a dramatic impact on how Americans make, store and use energy.
The president, speaking at the White House, touted the plan as a necessary step to combat global warming, even as the coal industry gears up to challenge the controversial regulations in court and Republicans prepare to fight them in Congress.
"There is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change," Obama said.
The plan calls for a 32 percent emissions cut by 2030, as compared with 2005 levels. The goals are even steeper than previously expected.
But already, the plan faces tough resistance. The Murray Energy Corporation, a coal mining company, announced Monday it would sue, and more than a dozen states and other companies were expected to take similar action.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, vowed to use legislation to thwart the president.
"President Obama will deliver another blow to the economy and the middle class," McConnell said on the Senate floor.
House Speaker John Boehner, who had previously described the draft plan as "nuts," called the final plan rolled out Monday "an expensive, arrogant insult to Americans who are struggling to make ends meet."
Some of the changes Obama announced go further in cutting the heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming. Other changes include delaying implementation and eliminating certain options that states could use to show they're cutting emissions.
"Time is not on our side here," the president said.
Republicans in Congress say they will fight the changes, and industry officials have expressed hesitation over the plan's cost and ambitious timetable.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., arguably the Senate's most vocal climate change skeptic, called the new rules "unachievable without great economic pain" and said it was a "burden President Obama thinks the American people should bear for the sake of his legacy."
The new regs on greenhouse gases are been the latest blow to the coal industry by the administration. Companies like Walter Energy and Alpha Natural Resources, one of the nation's largest coal producers, have seen their market value virtually wiped out since Obama became president in 2009.
Alpha, which operates about 60 coal mines in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Wyoming and Pennsylvania, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday, two weeks after its rival Walter Energy.
Alpha is the fourth large coal producer to file for bankruptcy protection in the past two years.
Obama announced the plan Monday as part of a broader push by his administration to position the United States as a global leader tackling climate change.
The rule would require a 32 percent cut in power-plant carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels, an increase from the 30 percent target proposed last year.
It also gives states another two years – until 2022 – to comply with the cuts, conceding to some critics who said the original deadline was too soon. States will also get another year to submit their implementation plans to the government.
In a sign some see as compromise, the final version of the rule keeps the share of natural gas in the nation’s power mix at current levels. In the draft proposal, there was a push to increase it.
"The plan issued by President Obama today appears to be more flexible than was originally proposed, providing states with more time to submit plans and to achieve compliance with the requirements to reduce their carbon pollution from power plants," Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in written statement.
Murray Energy Corp., the largest privately held coal mining company in the country, announced Monday it was filing five federal lawsuits to fight the new rule changes. The company plans to file a lawsuit against each of the three individual regulations the EPA revealed Monday. It also plans file a lawsuit against the entire regulatory package. The company will also appeal a lawsuit it lost in June that challenged one of the then-unfinished regulations.
The White House has pushed back on claims by the coal industry that as many as 50,000 jobs will be eliminated. In its fact sheet, the White House argues the new rules will create tens of thousands of jobs while ensuring grid reliability.
According to the White House, if the rule is implemented in all 50 states, the average American family can save $85 on their annual energy bill in 2030, though critics say it will raise energy bills.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, drew from her Boston background and called the rollout “an especially wicked-cool moment.”
A day earlier, she said the rule would result in an estimated annual cost of $8.4 billion by 2030 and have total benefits, including public-health benefits, of $34 billion to $54 billion per year by then.
Though the new EPA rule is key to Obama's legacy and comes despite the Supreme Court recently challenging EPA mercury rules, it will be up to Obama’s successor to implement the plan. That could prove difficult if a Republican candidate is voted into office.
In November, Obama rolled out an aggressive climate deal with China, and has made a climate change a top priority when meeting with world leaders. He's also expected to discuss it next month when Pope Francis visits.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.