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President Barack Obama will impose even steeper cuts on greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants 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.
A year after proposing unprecedented carbon dioxide limits, the Obama administration was poised to finalize the rule at a White House event on Monday.
Obama, in a video posted to 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."
In his initial proposal, Obama had mandated a 30 percent nationwide cut in carbon dioxide emissions 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 Obama administration officials, who weren't authorized to comment by name and requested anonymity.
Opponents said they would sue the government immediately. They also planned to ask the courts to put the rule on hold while legal challenges play out.
The final version also gives states an additional two years — until 2022 — to comply, officials said, yielding to complaints that the original deadline was too soon. States will also have until 2018 instead of 2017 to submit their plans for how they intend to meet their targets.
But the administration will attempt to incentivize states to take action earlier by offering credits to states that boost renewable sources like wind and solar in 2020 and 2021, officials said.
The focus on renewables marks a significant shift from the earlier version that sought to accelerate the ongoing shift from coal-fired power to natural gas, which emits far less carbon dioxide. The final rule aims to keep the share of natural gas in the nation's power mix the same as it is now.
The stricter limits included in the final plan were certain to incense energy industry advocates who had already balked at the more lenient limits in the proposed plan. But the Obama administration said its tweaks would cut energy costs and address concerns about power grid reliability.
The Obama administration previously predicted the emissions limits will cost up to $8.8 billion annually by 2030, although it says those costs will be far outweighed by health savings from fewer asthma attacks and other benefits. The actual price won't be clear 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.