Obama faces new pressure on Keystone pipeline

Nebraska governor’s OK was last hurdle

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To combat climate change and at least partly satisfy the environmental movement, Mr. Obama has other options beyond rejecting the Keystone pipeline.

Supporters expect him to double down on federal investments in renewable energy, such as wind and solar power. Such investments created a hallmark of Mr. Obama’s first term.

The president’s Environmental Protection Agency also will play a key role over the next four years, having laid the groundwork for dramatic reductions in carbon emissions.

One of the most significant steps was an EPA regulation that effectively blocked the construction of new coal-fired power plants by imposing carbon emission standards that are virtually impossible to achieve with current, financially viable technology.

Existing plants aren’t subject to those rules, but that soon may change. The EPA is expected to expand the regulation to all power plants, leaving operators with two unattractive options: spend millions of dollars to meet the emissions standards or close up shop.

“If you’re telling all of these plants they have to revamp or shut down to meet new regulations, they will inevitably begin the process of applying to shut down,” said Kenneth von Schaumburg, a Washington lawyer and deputy general counsel at the EPA during the George W. Bush administration.

“They’re not going to be able to reasonably recoup the costs of the necessary upgrades and retrofits. As additional power users come on line, and you have same or less power being generated, you end up with an unreliable [power] grid and more blackouts and brownouts,” he said.

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