The Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that it would regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and oil refineries next year, targeting the nation’s two biggest sources of carbon dioxide.

The move, which comes as part of a legal settlement with several states, local governments and environmental groups which have sued EPA under the Bush administration for failing to act, highlights the Obama administration’s intent to press ahead with curbs on carbon despite congressional resistance.

Collectively, electric utilities and oil refineries account for almost 40 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions: Under the agreement, EPA will propose new performance standards for power plants in July 2011 and for refineries in December 2011 and will issue final standards in May 2012 and November 2012, respectively.

“We are following through on our commitment to proceed in a measured and careful way to reduce GHG pollution that threatens the health and welfare of Americans, and contributes to climate change,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in a statement. “These standards will help American companies attract private investment to the clean energy upgrades that make our companies more competitive and create good jobs here at home.”

Environmentalists such as David Doniger, policy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s climate center, hailed the announcement of the new schedule for regulation.

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