- The Washington Times - Monday, November 17, 2014

The White House forged ahead Monday with yet another piece of its climate change agenda and bragged that Republicans are powerless to stop it.

A presidential task force unveiled a report on how communities across the country can prepare for the effects of global warming. In all, the recommendations on “climate preparedness and resilience” could cost the federal government more than $100 billion to protect drinking water supplies, shore up coastlines against rising sea levels and take other preventive measures.

The recommendations and subsequent expenses are just two pieces of an ever-expanding slate of global-warming that is sure to come under the microscope when Republicans assume control of the Senate in January.

But legal analysts say the Republicans have little ammunition to fight back, short of shutting down the federal government to stop Environmental Protection Agency funding.

White House officials, keenly aware of the executive power Mr. Obama holds on the issue of climate change, openly mocked incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republican colleagues.

“I believe the president will complete actions. It is a top priority of his and I don’t believe they can stop us,” White House counselor John Podesta told reporters on a conference call Monday. “Not withstanding Sen. McConnell making this a top priority to leave the status quo, to leave the air dirtier.”


PHOTOS: Not-so-presidential attire


White House officials on Monday also detailed some the expenses associated with the task force recommendations, including $88 billion for North Atlantic states to protect against rising sea levels, $6 billion for Midwestern states to combat rising temperatures and $40 billion to improve California’s drinking water systems.

The report comes on the heels of other recent steps, including Mr. Obama’s greenhouse gas emissions deal with China. Under that agreement, the U.S. pledged to cut its emissions by at least 26 percent by 2025, while China merely said it will cap emissions no later than 2030.

To meet that goal, the administration is relying on its unprecedented restrictions on power plant pollution — regulations that have led to accusations of a “war on coal” — and new auto fuel-efficiency standards, among other steps.

Mr. Obama also is seeking $3 billion in taxpayer money to go toward a global climate fund aimed at helping developing nations boost their infrastructure.

Republicans appear ready to fight the president’s climate change agenda tooth and nail. After the GOP captured the Senate, Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said reining in the EPA would be a “top priority.”

He reiterated those comments over the weekend.

“They’ve been on a rampage all across the country. And I think coal is the most conspicuous example, but it’s happening in a lot of other areas and I think you’re going to see bipartisan support for trying to rein them in,” he told an audience in Frankfort, Kentucky.

The larger climate change debate is intertwined with the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, the approval of which could come up for a Senate vote as early as Tuesday. The House already has passed legislation deeming the pipeline approved.

The White House, however, has hinted the president will veto the bill.

A similar fate could await other Republican efforts to push back on Mr. Obama’s climate change goals, according to Thomas Lorenzen, a lawyer who until last year served in the Justice Department’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division, overseeing legal challenges to EPA rules and regulations.

“It’s pretty hard to see how” Republicans can stop the president, Mr. Lorenzen said. “The problem is they don’t have a veto-proof majority.”

Mr. Lorenzen said Republicans could seek to cut funding to the EPA’s implementation of controversial rules, such the power plant restrictions. But going down such a path could escalate quickly for Republicans.

“How do you pass that in a way that it won’t be vetoed? What you end up with is a potential [government] shutdown battle,” Mr. Lorenzen said.

Lawsuits already have been filed challenging the EPA’s authority to limit emissions; more are likely to be filed as regulations on existing power plants are finalized.

That kind of legal action represents the best hope of stopping the administration, analysts say.

Meanwhile, the White House tried Monday to erase the partisan atmosphere around its host of environmental regulations.

“These issues really aren’t Republican or Democratic issues. They are issues that impact our citizens and our cities … It’s so important that we try, I think, to make this a nonpartisan issue,” said James Brainard, the Republican mayor of Carmel, Indiana, and a member of the task force that presented its recommendations on Monday.

Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

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