WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama launched a show of support Friday for new emissions rules for power plants, putting the weight of the White House behind the government’s controversial strategy for combating climate change.
Three days before his administration is set to unveil the first carbon dioxide limits on existing plants, Obama paid a surprise visit to a children’s hospital and met with young asthma patients, hoping to call attention to the health effects of air pollution. He also talked up the need to curb carbon pollution during a hurricane preparedness briefing at Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters.
“The changes we’re seeing in our climate means that, unfortunately, storms like Sandy could end up being more common and more devastating,” Obama said, invoking the deadly 2012 superstorm that’s become a rallying cry for climate activists.
The pair of appearances kicked off a public campaign by the president to rally Americans behind groundbreaking power plant rules that have already drawn scorn from the energy industry, business groups and even some Democrats from oil-dependent states.
Obama’s visit with young asthmatics at the Children’s National Medical Center was closed to reporters, but the White House said while at the hospital, Obama was also taping his weekly radio and Internet address, which spotlights the carbon rules and will be released Saturday.
Full details about the proposal won’t come until Monday, when Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy will formally announce the rules during a speech at her agency’s headquarters. Obama will also discuss the rules with public health leaders on a conference call hosted by the American Lung Association and other groups.
The centerpiece of Obama’s plan to fight climate change without going through Congress, the rules seek to limit carbon emissions from power plants, which form the largest single source of heat-trapping greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. Administration officials say the rules will give states reduction goals, then allow flexibility for states to meet those standards through an array of means and offsets.
But the proposal has already prompted groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to argue the emissions limits will cost jobs, drive up electricity prices and shutter power plants across the country.