RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The Obama administration is preparing to release a new climate rule that calls for deeper cuts in carbon pollution from the nation's power plants. President Obama previewed the plan in a Facebook video posted overnight.
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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: 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 plant, the biggest, most important step we've ever taken to combat climate change.
MARTIN: The rule has been in the works for over a year. And it's sure to draw complaints from some power plant operators and the fossil fuel industry. NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now to talk about this. Good morning, Scott.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.
MARTIN: This is what the EPA calls the final version of its climate rule. We saw a first draft of this thing in 2014, so what's new here?
HORSLEY: Well, the biggest change, Rachel, is that more ambitious target for reducing carbon emissions from power plants. Electric plants are the biggest source of carbon pollution in the economy. And the original rule, unveiled last year, called for cutting those emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2030. The final rule goes further and calls for plants to cut emissions by 32 percent. And this power plant regulation is really the centerpiece of the broader White House plan to cut the United States' overall carbon pollution. The administration's been pushing other big countries - China, India, Brazil - to take similarly aggressive action in advance of an international climate summit in Paris later this year.
MARTIN: And how are power plants supposed to go about this?
HORSLEY: Well, the rule sets an overall target and then leaves it up to each state to develop a plan to comply. Opponents of the plan, including Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, have been urging states to resist that requirement. So, as with the president's health care law, there is a fallback in which the federal government is prepared to step in with its own plan if states fail to develop their plans. In the White House video, the president tried to present this as a cooperative effort.
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OBAMA: We've been working with states and power companies to make sure they've got the flexibility they need to cut this pollution, all while lowering energy bills, ensuring reliable service and paving the way for new job-creating innovations that help America lead the world forward.
HORSLEY: The final version of the EPA rule does give states and the electric industry a little bit more time to comply than last year's draft did. The timeline for action is now pushed back by two years to 2022.
MARTIN: OK, so the Obama administration likes to boast that it's already overseen a big increase in the use of renewable energy, like wind and solar power. How much further does the White House want to go?
HORSLEY: We've seen a pretty dramatic shift in the nation's power mix. Coal, which used to account for about half of our electric supply, has now fallen to around 30 percent. And in July, natural gas topped coal as a source of electricity for the first time ever. Now, burning natural gas produces a lot less carbon than burning coal does, but more carbon than, say, wind power, solar power, nuclear power. In the past, the administration has described cheap natural gas as a bridge fuel to help us get from where we were to the new less carbon-intensive targets. And that was attractive to some because we've got a glut of cheap natural gas right now, thanks to the fracking revolution. The final EPA rule, however, puts less focus on natural gas and more attention on cleaner renewable sources of electricity.
MARTIN: NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Thanks so much, Scott.
HORSLEY: Good to be with you.
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