Obama Previews New EPA Rules, Girds for Climate Fight

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WASHINGTON - The fight over President Obama's climate policies is just warming up.

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to roll out carbon-emission caps Monday for existing power plants, a move Republicans have staunchly opposed since the George W. Bush administration.

In his weekly address today, Obama made the case for why the EPA should regulate carbon emissions, a contentious matter that's been the subject of two major Supreme Court cases.

Speaking from the Children's National Medical Center in Washington D.C., where he spent Friday visiting children who suffer from asthma, the president suggested that regulating emissions was a public health measure.

"As president, and as a parent, I refuse to condemn our children to a planet that's beyond fixing," Obama said. "Right now, there are no national limits to the amount of carbon pollution that existing plants can pump into the air we breathe. None."

The pending regulations were proposed in September, but emissions caps have been a major political issue for years. In 2007, under Bush's presidency, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA has a responsibility under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions, siding with environmentalists. In April, the court upheld a 2011 EPA rule aimed at air pollution that drifts across state lines.

Republicans have maintained that the EPA should not have the authority to regulate carbon emissions, but the two court cases have paved the way for EPA's coming power-plant regulations.

As a presidential candidate in 2008, Obama ran on an energy platform centered on cap-and-trade, a proposal to cap emissions for manufacturers and power plants and institute a scheme of emissions "credits" that could be traded or sold. Despite support from Republicans before 2008, that effort failed after passing the House, and Republicans successfully used it as a cudgel in the 2010 elections against House Democrats who supported it.

After the failure of cap-and-trade in Congress, EPA emission regulations became a backup plan for environmentalists.

Similar regulations have already been an issue on the campaign trail.

After Mitt Romney and Republicans accused Obama of waging a "war on coal" in the 2012 presidential election, Virginia's gubernatorial election featured disputes between Republican state attorney general Ken Cuccinelli and now-governor Terry McAuliffe over coal policies and whether climate change is a man-made problem.

Congressional Republicans have already panned the new regulations, the National Republican Congressional Committee has attacked Democratic incumbents for supporting them, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report finding the new standards will hurt the U.S. economy.

In other words, after EPA releases the new regulations on Monday, Obama and Democrats will have a climate fight on their hands.

This story has been corrected to reflect that the EPA's new regulations will apply to existing power plants, not new ones.