Even if the Obama administration gets its sweeping controls on carbon emissions from power plants into final form as expected in one year, the president will still have to wait for his successor to seal — or undo — his hoped-for environmental legacy.
The regulatory regime to limit greenhouse gases from existing power plants, unveiled in draft form earlier this month, stands to become the centerpiece of Obama’s climate agenda. And top advisers to the president have proclaimed that attempts to dismantle the rule are doomed to fail.
But a variety of avenues exist to change the policy down the road, even if the regulations are made final in June 2015 as anticipated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Another administration could rewrite or simply not enforce the regulations — a likely outcome if a Republican wins the White House in 2016. If, say, Hillary Clinton succeeds Obama, he might not have as much to worry about.
There are plenty of real-world examples to show how major regulations can be changed after a new occupant moves into the White House. The Obama administration, for instance, has already overhauled a slate of environmental regulations that President George W. Bush put on the books.
Case in point: In 2005, the Bush administration put the finishing touches on a rule to curb mercury emissions from power plants. Three years later, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit threw out the regulation. The Bush administration asked the Supreme Court to reconsider. But the Obama administration later asked the court to deny the appeal. In 2011, Obama’s EPA proposed a new rule that’s widely considered by environmentalists to be more stringent than the previous policy.
Federal agencies have slowly but surely plastered over Bush administration environmental policy — largely by reworking rules that didn’t hold up in court. EPA rewrote Bush-era regulations to rein in air pollution blowing across state lines, and the agency plans to toughen ozone standards that date back to the days Obama’s predecessor held office. The Interior Department is also revising Bush administration regulations on mountaintop-removal coal mining.
Future presidents could take a similar tack. The administration is rushing to wrap up the global-warming rule before Obama leaves office. But after the power-plant regulations are finalized, states will have another year to submit plans outlining how they expect to comply. Legal challenges are virtually guaranteed to outlast the administration.
Industry groups and conservatives are already plotting strategy to pick apart the rule. And if parts of the regulation need to be rewritten or the rule is thrown out entirely, its fate will rest largely in the hands of whoever lives in the White House.
“Massaging this rule is likely to become a top priority for future administrations,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the conservative think tank American Action Forum and former director of the Congressional Budget Office during the Bush administration. “It’s not easy to roll back regulation, but opposition to the rule is strong and it’s not going away.”
Even if the global-warming rule is not rewritten, it could still be undermined at the top reaches of the executive branch in other, more subtle, ways. Another administration could sit on its hands when it comes time to enforce the mandate. EPA could also delay making revisions to the rule if part of it is knocked down in court or could overlook lackluster efforts by states to comply.
And here too, the Obama administration may have set precedent. In 2010, EPA agreed to issue regulations that would curb greenhouse-gas emissions from refineries. But four years later, those rules have yet to surface. The administration hasn’t renounced its pledge to rein in refinery pollution. But it has relegated the responsibility to the back burner while it focuses on the global-warming rule and other initiatives.
“This administration has perfected the argument that even with a legal obligation they can delay action because they have other priorities,” said Lisa Heinzerling, a Georgetown Law School professor and senior climate policy counsel to former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson. “That could come back to haunt anyone who cares about climate change.”
What We're Following See More »
"Republican megadonor Foster Friess has told party leaders in Wyoming that he plans to run for governor," and is expected to make an announcement this afternoon. Friess has donated "millions of dollars to Republican candidates and causes over the last decade, according to federal campaign finance records," including over "$1.7 million to boost Santorum's [presidential] campaign" in 2016. Gov. Matt Mead (R) is term-limited, and "a handful of Republicans are running in an open primary to succeed him in one of the reddest states in the country."
Four Palestinian protestors have been killed by Israeli fire near the Gaza-Israel border, bringing the death toll to 38, in what marks the "fourth consecutive week of Gaza's March of Return mass protests." The marches are part of a "month-and-a-half-long protest organized by Hamas near the border fence," which organizers have said will not stop before May 15. The marches are intended to emulate anti-apartheid protests in South Africa, and to commemorate the forced expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in 1948, during the establishment of the State of Israel.
"Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe is looking to sue for defamation, wrongful termination and other possible civil claims, his lawyer told reporters Friday." McCabe's attorney Michael Bromwich said that his team "hasn't managed to find any witnesses to corroborate McCabe's version of the story," although they have not had enough time to do so. "McCabe’s lawyers are also seeking ways to release the emails between McCabe and Comey, which would offer insight into their communication about the leaks to the Wall Street Journal."
"The Democratic National Committee filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit Friday against the Russian government, the Trump campaign and the WikiLeaks organization alleging a far-reaching conspiracy to disrupt the 2016 campaign and tilt the election to Donald Trump. The complaint, filed in federal district court in Manhattan, alleges that top Trump campaign officials conspired with the Russian government and its military spy agency to hurt Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and help Trump by hacking the computer networks of the Democratic Party and disseminating stolen material found there." The DNC is seeking "millions of dollars in compensation to offset damage it claims the party suffered from the hacks," and is arguing the cyberattack" undermined its ability to communicate with voters, collect donations and operate effectively as its employees faced personal harassment and, in some cases, death threats."
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency have fined Wells Fargo $1 billion dollars for convincing customers to buy insurance they did not need, and could not afford. "In October, the bank revealed that some mortgage borrowers were inappropriately charged for missing a deadline to lock in promised interest rates, even though the delays were Wells Fargo's fault." The bank has also apologized for . "charging as many as 570,000 clients for car insurance they didn't need," and found that about 20,000 of those customers "may have defaulted on their car loans and had their vehicles repossessed in part because of those unnecessary insurance costs."