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Obama to unveil the finalized Clean Power Plan

US President Barack Obama will unveil a finalized version of the US Environment Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which aims to curb carbon emissions from the electricity sector. What Obama called “the biggest, most important step we’ve ever taken to combat climate change,” is an ambitious move to rein in the electric sector’s carbon emissions and a groundbreaking effort to tackle pollution and climate change. The measures will have a significant emphasis on wind and solar power and other renewable energy sources. The revised proposal is a signature piece of President Obama’s climate change policy which seeks to cut power sector emissions by 32 percent by 2030 compared with 2005 levels. Each US state will be assigned with different emission-cutting targets and are required to submit a proposal to the EPA on how to meet the target.

However, in long term, the fate of Obama’s signature Clean Power Plan depends on its ability to withstand the inevitable legal challenges from states and opposition from the energy and the manufacturing industries. Opponents have already vowed to challenge the regulation in the court. The Senate’s top Republican has already urged a nationwide boycott of the carbon-cutting proposal, with fourteen states joining in a lawsuit to block the rule even before it became final. The hard hit came from the Supreme Court ruling on June 29 after it backed away from Obama’s climate change agenda, overturning the EPA’s rules limiting certain toxic pollutants from coal-burning power plants.

The President got a head start addressing the American people in a video released by the White House on Sunday. Mr. Obama said the climate change is changing and “threatening our economy, our security, and our health.” He said it’s time to act. “Climate change is not a problem for another generation. Not anymore. That’s why on Monday, my administration will release the final version of America’s Clean Power Plan.”

He continued “power plants are the single biggest source of harmful carbon pollution that contributes to climate change. But until now, there have been no federal limits to the amount of that pollution those plants can dump into the air. Think about that. We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury and sulfur and arsenic in our air and water, and we’re better off for it. But existing power plants can still dump unlimited amount of harmful carbon pollution into the air we breathe. For the sake of our kids, for the health and safety of all Americans, that’s about to change.”

First proposed almost a year ago, the Clean Power Plan is surely Obama administration’s boldest attempt to date to reduce carbon emissions. The rule requires every state to reduce pollution from electricity generation, the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions. EPA proposed the Clean Power Plan in June 2014 which drew skepticism from many states and furious opposition from congressional Republicans, particularly lawmakers from coal-producing states. In March, the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reached out to all 50 governors urging them to block Mr. Obama’s climate change agenda. In a detailed letter, Mr. Connell laid out carefully researched legal arguments as to why states should not comply with Obama’s regulations, calling it “extremely burdensome and costly” and on “shaky legal grounds.”

At this rate, it’s hard to see that US could fulfill Obama’s recent pledge to cut the entire economy’s emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025, especially with all the political drama going around. However the ongoing transformation of the U.S. grid – a shift from carbon-intensive coal to lower-carbon natural gas and zero-carbon renewable, have already gotten Obama’s administration almost halfway to their goal, and the new plan hasn’t even taken effect yet. Well, there is every reason to believe U.S. will follow the path to reduce its carbon emission whether or not the Clean Power Plan gets a green light. But an ambitious plan would definitely cut more emissions in long term.