White House stands by pledge to end Ex-Im backing for coal plants

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 20, 2015 7:26 PM

By Roberta Rampton and Krista Hughes

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House said on Friday it would press ahead to end government financing for most coal-fired power plants overseas, a day after a bipartisan bill sought to overturn limits on those projects financed by the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

Lawmakers are trying to hammer out a plan to save the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which provides support for U.S. exporters and the buyers of U.S. goods, before its mandate expires on June 30.

On Thursday, a group of senators introduced a bill that they say provides a bipartisan compromise on the export credit agency - but also overturns limits on coal-fired power plant projects.

"The administration is strongly committed to the long-term reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank," said White House spokeswoman Jennifer Friedman.

"We are also fully committed to ending public financing for the most polluting power plants overseas, except in the poorest countries, and oppose language that would hinder implementation of the president's Climate Action Plan," Friedman told Reuters.

Obama has said he wants to focus on cutting greenhouse gas emissions at home and abroad in his remaining two years in office. Later this year, he wants to negotiate an international agreement to slow climate change.

In June 2013, Obama released a "Climate Action Plan" that included a call to end government support for most new coal plants overseas. The board of the Ex-Im Bank agreed, but lawmakers from coal-producing states have fought the move.

Friedman noted that Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Nordic countries, and the Netherlands have announced similar policies on financing overseas coal plants.

"The administration is working hard to level the playing field for U.S. exporters and will continue to push others to adopt similar policies," she said.

The White House declined to comment specifically on the energy provision included in Thursday's Ex-Im bill, which is backed by four Democratic and four Republican senators.

The bill includes a provision that would ban "discrimination" based on industry and energy source. A Democratic aide said the provision would end restrictions on the bank's financing for coal-fired plants.

The bill is a blueprint for balance between conservatives who want to close the Ex-Im Bank, other Republicans who want reforms, and many Democrats who prefer a longer-term mandate and an expansion of the bank's activities.

The fight has huge ramifications for U.S. companies that benefit from Ex-Im financing, including Boeing Co and Caterpillar Inc.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Krista Hughes; Editing by Bill Trott and Lisa Shumaker)