Greenhouse Gas Rule Now Stalled at White House Beyond Time Limit of Executive Order

Ben Somberg

March 6, 2012

On November 7 of last year, EPA sent the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) a rather important proposed rule – one that will, in some way, limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants.  The Greenhouse Gas New Source Performance Standard for Electric Generating Units for New Sources has now been at OIRA for 120 days – the maximum allowed by Executive Order.

Executive Order 12866 is pretty clear on the deadline for OIRA to return rules to the agencies:

“… within 90 calendar days after the date of submission …  The review process may be extended (1) once by no more than 30 calendar days upon the written approval of the Director and (2) at the request of the agency head.”

With this rule, as with many rules that go beyond 90 days, neither OIRA nor the agency has issued any public notification announcing that a 30 day extension has been requested or granted. But I’ll still give them the benefit of the doubt and give them the full 120 days. That makes it today.

The Administration is under tremendous political pressure over the rule, though the White House always maintains that OIRA’s actions are not based on politics. OIRA has hosted eight lobby meetings on this specific rule (12/15/11, 1/9/12, 2/1/12, 2/7/12, 2/7/12, 2/9/12, 2/13/12, 2/14/12). Nearly the entire Republican caucus in the House, plus 14 Democrats, sent OMB a letter two weeks ago opposing the rule.

The rule seeks to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants – the single largest stationary source of these climate-changing emissions. As one observer said of climate change: “Our generation's response to this challenge will be judged by history, for if we fail to meet it – boldly, swiftly, and together – we risk consigning future generations to an irreversible catastrophe.” That was President Obama, speaking in 2009.

This rule was featured in CPR’s latest Issue Alert as one of the critical safeguards currently under development that are in danger of not being completed during the current presidential term because of unreasonable delays. The kind of excessive interference from OIRA exhibited here is one of the primary contributing causes for these delays.

By my count, OIRA currently has 30 different final or proposed rules in its grasp for 120 days or more (fun fact: Chemicals of Concern easily leads the pack, at 664). For an Administration that cites Executive Orders over and over again as if they’re gospel, they sure ignore this one casually when they want to.

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