"Climate change is no longer a distant threat -- we are already feeling its impacts across the country and the world," the White House said in a 21-page document titled "The President's Climate Act Plan."
In his Georgetown speech, Obama left no doubt he's not interested in further debate about whether the planet is warming, whether human activity is to blame and whether something needs to be done about it.
"We don't have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society," Obama said. "Sticking your head in the sand might make you feel better, but it's not going to protect you from the coming storm."
Under the president's plan, EPA will first be ordered to finalize carbon dioxide limits for new power plants by September, senior administration officials said. EPA will then move forward with carbon dioxide limits for existing plants, issuing a proposal by June 2014 and finalizing those limits by June 2015.
The rules will cover all electricity generating stations -- the source of one-third of U.S. greenhouse emissions -- but would almost certainly be tougher on coal-fired plants because burning coal produces more carbon dioxide than burning natural gas.
Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, criticized Obama for "announcing imminent restrictions on carbon emissions from power plants that exceed the capabilities of current technology." Raney said the president shows "no regard for the people and communities of West Virginia that depend on coal and the inexpensive energy it creates."
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., echoed Raney's comments, saying, "The regulations the president wants to force on coal are not feasible. And if it's not feasible, it's not reasonable."
Exact details of EPA's eventual proposals and final rules, though, are still to come, so it's not clear how difficult it would be for utilities to comply -- or how long of a phase-in period will eventually be allowed.
Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers union, said he was especially disappointed that no one from the White House reached out to his group for input before Tuesday's announcement.
"The climate action plan outlined [Tuesday] by President Obama contains many lofty goals, but nothing that speaks to the hardship and suffering his plan would cause to the lives of coal miners, their families, and others in the communities where they live," Roberts said.
Obama's plan, though, does include $8 billion in new U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantees for fossil fuel projects, including those aimed specifically at testing, perfecting and deploying CCS technology to control greenhouse emissions.
And when discussing the move to a cleaner energy economy in his speech, the president said, "We're going to need to give special care to people and communities that are unsettled by this transition, not just here in the United States but around the world."
Jeremy Richardson, a West Virginia native who is studying coal and climate change for the Union of Concerned Scientists, praised Obama's proposals to curb global warming pollution.
"But this is only part of the solution," said Richardson, a physicist who comes from a family of miners. "We must provide support for workers and communities that are hurt by the energy transition so they can be part of that clean energy future."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.