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Obama set to announce steeper emissions cuts from US power plants

President Obama will impose steeper cuts on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants across the country than previously expected, senior administration officials said Sunday, in what the president called the most significant step the U.S. has ever taken to fight global warming.

The Obama administration is expected to finalize the rule at a White House event on Monday, a year after proposing unprecedented carbon dioxide limits. Obama, in a video posted on Facebook, said the limits were backed up by decades of data and facts showing that without tough action, the world will face more extreme weather and escalating health problems like asthma.

"Climate change is not a problem for another generation," Obama said. "Not anymore."

Initially, Obama had mandated a 30 percent nationwide cut in carbon dioxide emission by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. The final version, which follows extensive consultations with environmental groups and the energy industry, will require a 32 percent cut instead, according to White House officials.

Opponents said they would sue the government immediately. The also planned to ask the courts to put the rule on hold while legal challenges play out.

The steeper version also gives states an additional two years to comply, officials said, yielding to complaints that the original deadline was too soon. The new deadline is set for 2022. States will also have until 2018 instead of 2017 to submit their plans for how they intend to meet their targets.

The focus on renewables marks a significant shift from the earlier proposal that sought to accelerate the ongoing shift from coal-fired power to natural gas, which emits less carbon dioxide. The final version aims to keep the share of natural gas in the nation’s power mix the same as it is now.

The stricter limits included the final plan were certain to incense energy industry advocates who had already balked at the more lenient limits in the proposed plan. However, the Obama administration said its tweaks would cut energy costs and address concerns about power grid reliability.

The Obama administration previously predicted emissions limits will cost up to $8.8 billion annually by 2030, though it says those costs will be far outweighed by health savings from fewer asthma attacks and other benefits. The actual price is unknown until states decide how they’ll reach their targets, but the administration has projected the rule would raise electricity prices about 4.9 percent by 2020 and prompt coal-fired power plants to close.

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Over-regulation has become a theme in American life, but no set of regulations has the potential to affect more Americans than this administration’s War on Coal. Every American in each economic class will feel the squeeze in a rise in electricity prices, and the benefits in lowering greenhouse gas emissions are far from guaranteed.

Increasing federal power through the “fourth branch” -- the regulatory leviathan -- is among D.C.’s favorite techniques to gain control over American citizens, but it’s time is coming to an end. The movement is growing to call an Article V Convention of States -- a recourse given to the states in the Constitution to propose constitutional amendments that limit the federal power and jurisdiction.

We’re working all across the country to call such a convention. Click here to get involved.