Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor

Obama to unveil final Clean Power Plan as regulatory opponents dig in

Looking to cement its climate change legacy, the Obama administration's final Clean Power Plan will require steeper emissions cuts from existing power plants, boost incentives for renewable energy development and extend the timeline for compliance.

The White House and Environmental Protection Agency detailed key changes to the rule Sunday, a day ahead of its formal release. While changes were made as a result of 4.3 million public comments submitted, giving states more time and options to comply, critics said they wouldn’t be enough to ensure secure energy supplies and affordable power rates.

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Analysis: A bigger carbon goal portends a bigger fight ahead

The Environmental Protection Agency's final rules for reducing carbon emissions from power plants—to be unveiled by President Barack Obama on Monday —is the formal capstone of the administration's six-year effort to tip the balance of American power generation away from higher-polluting fuels and toward cleaner sources.

There will be vigorous legal challenges to the rule—especially now that the final goal, to be achieved by 2030, is to cut its carbon emissions by an even stricter 32 percent below 2005 levels. But the reality is that, on the broader issue, Obama has likely already won, because of a huge assist from the free market.

Pro-Bush super PAC received $1M from Florida power company

WASHINGTON (AP) — The largest Florida corporate donor to a super political action committee backing former Gov. Jeb Bush's presidential run is NextEra Energy Inc., the company that owns electric utility giant Florida Power & Light.

Bush, a leading Republican contender, knows the company well. In 2009, more than two years after leaving office, he penned an opinion piece in the state capital's newspaper urging regulators to approve the utility's proposed rate increase for Florida customers.

Canadian rivers: Solution to Northeast's high energy prices?

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Plenty of raw electricity sloshes around in Quebec's rivers and reservoirs, promising relief for U.S. northeasterners, who pay the nation's highest power costs. But getting those electrons to smartphones and air conditioners in Boston, Hartford and New York City is another matter entirely.

In review or under construction are five large-scale hydropower proposals that could pump thousands of megawatts into the Northeast and ease prices as supply increases. But critics worry that transmission lines will despoil the natural beauty of places like New Hampshire's White Mountains, and that overreliance on it will stymie efforts to trim consumption and develop renewable energy sources closer to home.

AP-GfK poll: Americans favor farmers & food during drought

LOS ANGELES (AP) — When water gets scarce and the government slaps restrictions on its use, who should be first in line at the spigot? Farmers, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll.

The national survey provides a glimpse into how Americans think water should be managed at a time when abnormally dry weather has afflicted swaths of the country, and water shortages in some states have led to conflict over who should get water and how much.

Some Midwest farmers' crops falter in record rains

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Weeks of record rainfalls drenched Don Lamb's cornfields this summer, drowning some plants and leaving others yellowed, 2 feet tall and capable of producing little, if any, grain.

The 48-year-old central Indiana farmer can't recall anything like the deluges he's seen from late May on this summer; the latest was a 4-inch downpour a week ago. Neither can his father, who's been farming for 50 years.

Democrats happy with Obama outreach as they weigh Iran deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — Determined to secure support for the Iran nuclear deal, President Barack Obama is making inroads with a tough constituency — his fellow Democrats in Congress.

A handful of key Democrats stepped forward to support the accord within hours of Obama's personal lobbying at the White House last week, part of the administration's all-out campaign since the pact was announced July 14. Other Democrats have signaled they are leaning in favor and still others have remained undeclared, awaiting a vote in September.

Ethics panel clears lawmakers in 2013 Azerbaijan trip

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Ethics Committee said Friday it found no evidence of wrongdoing by a bipartisan group of lawmakers who went on a 2013 trip to Azerbaijan paid for by that country's government.

Lawmakers obtained prior approval for the trip from the ethics panel "in good faith" and did not know that two groups that claimed to sponsor the trip had apparently lied about the true source of their funding, the ethics panel said.

"When a House member ...seeks and receives advance written permission to accept a gift" such as travel, "that permission acts a shield to protect the individual from future action by this committee," the ethics panel said in a 28-page report.

Wildfire raging north of San Francisco threatens homes

LOWER LAKE, Calif. (AP) — Wildfires blazing in several Western states Sunday chewed up forests and threatened homes but were most numerous in Northern California where dozens are raging and setting off evacuations.

Wildfires are also burning in Washington and Oregon.

Mexico state: Indians approve embattled wind power project

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Residents of a heavily Indian area have approved the installation of a huge wind power project in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico, the Oaxaca state government said Friday.

The proposed construction of 132 giant wind turbines is meant to generate 396 megawatts of power, but the project has raised concerns over vibrations, bird deaths and invasion of Indian lands.

Canada PM triggers election with vote in October

TORONTO (AP) — Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper triggered an election campaign Sunday and set the vote for Oct. 19, when Harper and his Conservative party hope to earn a fourth term after almost a decade in power.

Analysts say the election is a toss-up and Harper faces an uphill battle to form another majority government. If Harper wins he would become the first prime minister since 1908 to win four consecutive elections.

Final carbon rule: Stricter goals but more options for states

The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday is set to finalize its long-awaited Clean Power Plan to slash emissions from power plants, setting a more ambitious target for reductions, but giving states more time—and options—to comply.

The final rule for existing plants would require total carbon emissions cuts of 32 percent by 2030, compared with 2005 levels, up from 30 percent in the proposal. It also sets a more aggressive goal for renewable power than did the draft, aiming to have 28 percent of the country's power generated from renewable sources by 2030, up from 22 percent in the draft proposal.

White House

Obama to mandate steeper emissions cuts from US power plants

NEW YORK (AP) — 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.

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 will require a 32 percent cut instead, said the officials, who weren't authorized to comment by name and requested anonymity.

The final rule 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'll 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.

A year after proposing unprecedented carbon dioxide limits, Obama was poised to finalize the rule at a White House event on Monday. In a video posted to Facebook, Obama said the limits were backed up by decades of data 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."

Opponents vowed to sue immediately, and planned to ask the courts to put the rule on hold while legal challenges play out. Many states have threatened not to comply.

 

W. KNIGHT PHOTO

Last-ditch lobbying on carbon rule: The White House hears from all sides

White House officials met with groups ranging from the coal industry to health groups, from utilities to environmentalists in the past month as they all made their final push to influence the Environmental Protection Agency's power plant carbon rules, White House records show.

The final Clean Power Plan could be issued as early as Monday, and the Office of Management and Budget on Friday published records detailing dozens of meetings with stakeholders since late June, after the agency's proposed rule for existing power plants was submitted for final review.

Oil

Extended slump in oil taking toll on industry, economy

NEW YORK (AP) — As drivers, shippers and airlines continue to enjoy lower fuel prices, the oil industry is responding to much lower profits with sharp cuts in spending and employment that are hurting economic growth.

Low oil and gas prices are good for the overall economy because they reduce costs for consumers and business. U.S. economic growth was higher in the second quarter, and economists say that was partly fueled by consumers spending some of their savings on gasoline at stores and restaurants.

Oil

Exxon profit falls by half but production rises

NEW YORK (AP) — Exxon Mobil Corp. profit dropped by half in the second quarter on sharply lower oil and gas prices around the world, but the company's oil and gas production, which has been generally declining in recent years, surged.

The company posted net income for the second quarter of $4.19 billion, down 52 percent from $8.78 billion in the second quarter of last year. It was Exxon's lowest quarterly profit since June of 2009, when the nation was in recession and oil and gas prices had plummeted.

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