Steam rising from a coal-fired power plant in Wyoming, March 2014.
Jim Urquhart / Courtesy Reuters

On June 2, U.S. President Barack Obama proposed the country’s first-ever federal regulation on greenhouse gas pollution resulting from existing power plants. The rule, intended to cut carbon emissions from the power sector to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, is an indispensable piece of the administration’s climate policy, which it has painstakingly assembled since a comprehensive energy and climate bill collapsed in the Senate in mid-2010.

Predictably, Obama’s proposal set off a firestorm of political hyperbole. The Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, decried it as a “dagger in the heart of the middle class,” and John Boehner,

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