President Barack Obama announced the final version of his "Clean Power Plan" this week. Mr. Obama says the plan will reduce carbon pollution from power stations by one-third over the next 15 years. He said this is the single most important step the United States has ever taken in the fight against climate change.
But his political opponents say they will fight the rules in Congress. They even plan to ask courts to stop them. Congressional Republicans say the president's plan will hurt states where coal is mined. They also say it will be costly to put in place and will raise electricity rates.
Yet the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is happy about the plan. Gina McCarthy says it will give her agency more power to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants. She says gases linked to climate change will be reduced at a faster rate than would have been possible under an earlier version of the rules.
The new plan cuts about nine percent more of those gases than the earlier proposal. This has angered many officials in coal-mining states, including members of Mr. Obama's party.
At the White House on Monday, the president said the EPA must act now because the effects of climate change are already being felt. In his words, "we are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change (and) we're the last generation that can do something about it."
"There is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change."
The president said: "We only get one home. We only get one planet. There is no Plan B."
Mr. Obama said he believes the changing climate is the greatest challenge to future generations. He said the United States must reduce the amount of electricity it produces with coal, and increase the amount it creates with renewable energy, such as wind power. The president said power plants create about a third of the carbon pollution in the country's air. That is more than automobiles, homes and airplanes combined, he said.
The United States and China are among the world's biggest polluters. Coal supplies more than a third of the electricity used in the U.S. Only five percent of the country's power comes from wind and solar energy.
One of the president's strongest critics is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He sharply criticized the new rules during a speech this week in the Senate. He said they would hurt states that depend on coal, like his home state of Kentucky. It has lost thousands of coal mining jobs in recent years. Senator McConnell says the new rules would cost many more.
"And in Kentucky, these regulations would likely mean fewer jobs, shuttered power plants (and) higher electricity costs for families and businesses. So I'm not gonna sit by while the White House takes aims at the lifeblood of our state's economy."
Many power companies and other businesses are expected to oppose the Clean Power Plan. And about 25 states are expected to fight the plan in court. Experts say the Supreme Court will probably have to decide if the federal government has the power to put the new rules into effect.
Senator McConnell has called on governors to refuse to accept the plan. It requires states to write their own rules and put them in place by 2022. That is two years later than the rules announced earlier this year.
Senator John Barasso is a Republican from the western state of Wyoming.
"Governors know that this is going to be bad in terms of reliability of energy in their states, bad for jobs and bad for their economy, and it's going to cost people in their states more for energy."
Missouri Senator Roy Blunt is also a Republican.
"And it'll have (a) disproportionate impact on poor families and working families and middle-class families that can barely pay their utility bill now."
Mr. Obama said opponents of his plan should consider the effects of pollution on people in their states.
"So if you care about low-income and minority communities, start protecting the air they breathe and stop trying to rob them of their health care."
The president said his plan would reduce the number of early deaths from power plant pollution by 90 percent. And he said it would reduce the number of pollutants than can cause asthma attacks by 70 percent.
Mr. Obama noted that Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, has said fighting climate change is a moral obligation. The president said he will talk to the pope about the issue when Francis visits Washington next month.
I'm Christopher Jones-Cruise.