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 June 21, 2013
Boehner slams "absolutely crazy" Obama climate plan

 It may not have even been launched yet, but that has not stopped the Republican leadership already dismissing the Obama administration's imminent new climate change strategy as "absolutely crazy".

Asked by reporters yesterday about speculation the president is preparing to introduce new regulations to curb emissions from power plants, Republican house speaker John Boehner signalled the GOP would oppose any such measures.

"I think this is absolutely crazy," Boehner said. "Why would you want to increase the cost of energy and kill more American jobs at a time when American people are asking, 'Where are the jobs?'."

Crucially, the Obama administration is planning to use executive authority to push through new emissions regulations at the EPA that circumvent the need for any new legislation from Congress.

However, Boehner's comments signal that any such move will inevitably face fierce opposition from the GOP and some traditional business groups.

Speculation is mounting in Washington that new climate change measures will be announced within weeks, after Heather Zichal, the deputy assistant to the president on energy and climate change, revealed earlier this week that the administration was poised to deliver "meaningful" action to tackle emissions.

The centrepiece of the new plan is expected to be the introduction of new emissions rules under the Clean Air Act, which could impose emissions limits on power plants and industrial facilities. However, Zichal hinted that such a move would be accompanied by a wide range of new measures, including an expansion of federal energy-efficiency programmes and a push to generate more renewable energy on public lands.

Senior figures within the administration have also been laying the groundwork for the new strategy, including the president himself, who this week used a speech in Berlin to again underline his commitment to tackling climate change.

Meanwhile, secretary of state John Kerry this week used an opinion piece on the Grist website to highlight how climate change had become central to the State Department's agenda.

"We are not just the 'indispensable nation' -- today we must be the indispensable stewards of our shared planet," he wrote. "What one country does impacts the livelihoods of people elsewhere, and what we all do to address climate change now will largely determine the kind of planet we leave for our children and generations to come. From the far reaches of Antarctica's Ross Sea to tropical wetlands in Southeast Asia, we have a responsibility to safeguard and sustainably manage our planet's natural resources."

He also revealed that the US was working closer than ever before with China to deliver action on climate change -- citing the recent agreement to curb HFC emissions -- and revealed that the two countries will present new joint initiatives at the Strategic and Economic Dialogue meeting in Washington next month.

Green businesses and NGOs are anxiously awaiting the launch of the new climate strategy, but there are also fears that it will be launched in conjunction with approval for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which campaigners fear will badly undermine any emission reduction efforts made elsewhere.

More than 140 former Obama campaign staffers yesterday published an open letter to the president calling on him to block the development of the pipeline.

"You can help cement your legacy as a climate champion by rejecting this pipeline," the letter states. "You already know all the reasons we can't afford this pipeline -- that it will lock in gigatons of carbon pollution over the next four decades and that it could spill into our nation's most valuable water sources -- we're just asking you to think of us when you make up your mind."