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Bush reverses position on emissions reductions

Bush pledged during the campaign to reduce emmissions from U.S. power plants  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Retreating from a campaign pledge, President Bush told Congress Tuesday that his administration would not impose mandatory emissions reductions for carbon dioxide on the nation's power plants.

In a letter to Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., the president made no mention of a campaign promise to require reductions in emissions of "four main pollutants: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury and carbon dioxide."

Instead, the president noted that carbon dioxide was not considered a pollutant under the Clean Air Act and said a recent Department of Energy review had determined "that including caps on carbon dioxide emissions as part of a multiple emissions strategy would lead to an even more dramatic shift from coal to natural gas for electric power generation and significantly higher electricity prices compared to scenarios in which only sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides were reduced."

While the letter made no direct reference to the campaign pledge, it did say "this is important new information that warrants a reevaluation, especially at a time of rising energy prices and a serious energy shortage."

The environmental group, Sierra Club, was outraged by the president's decision, claiming Bush was bowing to "big business, rather than protecting our children."

"We're royally disappointed with this one. He's betraying his campaign promise," said Sierra spokesman Allen Mattison. "Now that he's in the White House, he's taking a dive on the issue."

Reducing carbon dioxide emissions is a key element of reducing so-called "greenhouse gases." Without cutting back such emissions, Mattison said, the world will see more rising sea waters, droughts, agricultural disasters and heat waves in the years to come.

"The only way to curb global warming is to get carbon dioxide emissions under control," he said.

Last weekend, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman said the administration was moving ahead with plans for regulations in line with the Bush campaign pledge. But Vice President Dick Cheney informed GOP senators of the coming change during a Tuesday luncheon, and the president's letter to Hagel was sent a short time later.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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