The EPA regulations limiting the amount of carbon that can be emitted by existing powerplants may be the most crucial step forward in environmental policy made by the eight-year Obama Administration.
But those regulations will apparently be late in arriving for public comment--and they face a notably more hostile U.S. Congress over the next two years.
DON'T MISS: EPA's Coal-Plant Emissions Rules: This Will Be The Big Fight (Jun 2014)
As Politico noted in an article last week, insiders following the agency's progress on the rule think it could miss the January 8 deadline "by months."
Gina McCarthy, nominee for Environmental Protection Agency administrator
Indeed, the EPA hasn't even submitted the rule to the Office of Management and Budget in the White House for review, which is a process than can take up to 90 days.
And the new regulations face what is likely to be a far more hostile Congress after this fall's elections.
The U.S. House of Representatives has long attempted to limit the agency's actions.
Now the new Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell [R-KY] comes from a coal-producing state with a remarkably high-carbon electric grid.
Data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency for 2011, the most recent year available, indicates that Kentucky has the second most carbon-intensive grid of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia.
Its carbon footprint per kWh of energy produced is exceeded only by that of another coal producer, West Virginia.
ALSO SEE: Do New EPA Emission Rules Just Hasten Coal's Inevitable Death? (Jun 2014)
As noted by a number of advocacy groups and commentators, McConnell is likely to be an implacable foe of any attempts to limit coal--and remains opposed on principle to regulating it.
Senator Mitch McConnell [R-KY]
McConnell told Kentucky.com in a November 6 interview that he feels a "deep responsibility" to stop the EPA's regulations on carbon dioxide emissions at coal-burning power plants.
Talk that coal has little future in the U.S., McConnell said, makes him "very angry, and I'm going to do everything I can to try to stop them."
In a leaked recording from a private gathering in June organized by the billionaire Koch brothers, McConnell laid out his tactics.
As reported by McClatchy DC in October, McConnell said he would attach riders to spending bills to "go after them on health care, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board."
His party's majority in the Senate, however, is slim enough that such tactics are unlikely to gather the 60 votes needed to ensure passage--and they would risk a veto from the president.
Moreover, McConnell is an experienced and savvy politician who may not want to risk the potential of another government shutdown.
MORE: Keystone Pipeline Fight: Insignificant 'Sideshow' To EPA Power-Plant Limits? (Apr 2014)
As we wrote back in June, the EPA regulations on carbon emission from coal plants could well become the biggest and most consequential environmental fight the U.S. has seen in many years.