The Administration's New Strategy on Climate Change appeal to local governments

Coral Davenport (Feb. 25, 2013)

President Obama used his Inaugural Address and State of the Union speech to issue the boldest, clearest call to action on climate change ever voiced by a sitting U.S. president—but don’t expect him to barnstorm across the country with that message.

While the president will headline a road show of events to sell his crowd-friendly message on restoring the middle class and boosting U.S. manufacturing, climate change won’t get a starring role. It remains a politically inflammatory subject, and the White House communications team isn’t exactly eager to remind Americans how Obama plans to tackle the problem. The president has called on Congress to pass a climate-change bill, but it’s almost certain that any such legislation will expire in the gridlock of Capitol Hill. Instead, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to issue tough regulations on coal-fired power plants, the nation’s biggest source of global-warming pollution. That’s hardly the stuff of soaring rhetoric—and it’s sure to reignite Republicans’ 2012 campaign attacks that the president is abusing government authority and waging a war on coal.

But even though climate change won’t get top billing in Obama’s speeches, the White House is far from ignoring the issue; it’s just doing a different kind of outreach to build the case for its coming climate-change actions.

Inside Washington, in a warren of back rooms at EPA, dozens of environmental officials are working to craft landmark climate-change regulations that they hope will curb industrial pollution—and withstand a tsunami of legal and political attacks. To help them do it, they’re inviting in heads of the industries and businesses that will soon be forced to implement the rules. Business leaders, although they’re not happy about the coming regulations, are jumping on the opportunity to communicate their concerns and perhaps help shape the rules they’ll have to live by. And the Obama administration hopes that the dialogue will help defuse some of the opposition to come.

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