Obama Could Bypass Congress to Fulfill Climate Pledge

President Barack Obama, whose inaugural address made climate change a second-term priority, could bypass Congress and implement much of his environmental agenda unilaterally through regulations and executive action.

Obama could, for example, impose curbs on coal-fired power plants of companies such as American Electric Power Co. (AEP) and limit methane discharged during hydraulic fracturing, environmentalists say. He could reject Keystone XL, a pipeline that would carry Canadian tar-sands crude to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. Nebraska’s governor yesterday approved a new route, clearing the way for Obama’s decision on the TransCanada Corp. (TRP) project.

The president can accomplish much of what was sought under the failed 2009 cap-and-trade legislation by rules, in part relying on authority in the four-decade-old Clean Air Act and a 2007 Supreme Court decision applying it to carbon emissions.

“He doesn’t need new legislation in order to make significant progress,” David Doniger, climate policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said. “The primary pathway is to use the legal authority he clearly already has.”