President Obama is trying a different tactic in an effort to make good on his second-term promise to reduce pollution.
Obama explained Wednesday in a speech in Berlin, Germany, that he’ll be using his executive power to work with the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Air Act to put in place strong pollution regulations for coal-fired power plants. The regulations, according to Obama's senior energy and climate adviser Heather Zichal, won’t need any funding or action from Congress.
Zichal spoke at a forum hosted by The New Republic in Washington and explained the plan, which she said will encourage energy efficiency of buildings and appliances, and help boost renewable energy popularity.
"The EPA has been working very hard on rules that focus specifically on greenhouse gases from the coal sector," Zichal said.
Though Congress will be less than pleased with Obama for skirting around their authority, various environmental groups will enthusiastically welcome the plan after years of lobbying for greater regulations. These groups, coupled with lawmakers from states who suffered damage from Hurricane Sandy, have been pressuring Obama to work towards lowering emissions from existing power plants and regulate energy sources for new plants.
Former Vice President Al Gore, a long-time activist in slowing global warming, has criticized Obama for not acting, claiming he needs to move past “great words” to “great actions.”
"This is the global threat of our time," Obama said Wednesday in Berlin. "And for the sake of future generations, our generation must move toward a global compact to confront a changing climate before it is too late. That is our job. That is our task. We have to get to work."
Some environmental leaders, however, are not willing to let up on pressuring the president for fear this plan may fall through, or not do enough to curb emissions.
"President Obama deserves praise for including climate change among the long-term threats facing us all," said Ned Helme, president of the Center for Clear Air Policy, an environmentally friendly think tank. "But he should do more than talk about the problem. The president needs to put the full force of his office behind new regulations that will truly curb greenhouse gas emissions. For too long now, he has produced little action. I'm encouraged that he will finally act and not just ask."