Trump's environment agency seeks to roll back Obama-era clean power plan

James Marshall
August 21, 2018

"The entire Obama administration plan was centered around doing away with coal", Wheeler told the Journal, referencing the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan.

The Environmental Protect Agency announced late Monday that acting administrator Andrew Wheeler planned to brief the news media by telephone Tuesday on greenhouse guidelines for states to set performance standards for existing coal-fired power plants. By contrast, the Obama Administration's Clean Power Plan established targets for emissions across each state's energy sector, a move that would have incentivized the industry to leave behind the highest-carbon-emitting power sources, like coal.

That's what happened on Tuesday, with a proposal called the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, which acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler said "would restore the rule of law and empower state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide modern, reliable and affordable energy for all Americans". Although it is unlikely to dramatically alter the US power mix - or give a big boost to domestic coal demand, which has flagged amid competition from cheap natural gas and renewables - industry advocates hailed the effort as curbing federal government overreach and leveling the playing field. See you later. CLEAN COAL!'

Environmental advocates blasted the proposal, saying it will boost emissions from power plants, which emit about 28 percent of USA greenhouse gases, and worsen global warming. The move dovetails with a separate administration proposal to relax Obama-era greenhouse gas emission limits on vehicles and coming efforts to ease restrictions on the amount of methane that can escape from oil wells.

In a press release on Tuesday, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) called the Affordable Clean Energy Rule "worse than nothing". And it may not be enough to save many coal plants.

Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey cited this summer's wildfires and increasing droughts and coastal flooding as evidence that man-made climate change from burning coal and other fossil fuels is already well upon the United States.

Trump's regulations have to go through a 60-day public comment period before they are finalized.

The Environmental Protection Agency called the regulations on coal power plants "overly prescriptive and burdensome" in the proposal to roll-back the former president's climate-change initiative.

The Trump administration's plan, the Affordable Clean Energy rule, rolls back numerous protections from Obama's Clean Power Plan that sought to significantly reduce greenhouse emissions from power plants and shift incentives to cleaner sources of energy.

A three-page summary being circulated at the White House focuses on boosting efficiency at coal-fired power plants and allowing states to reduce "wasteful compliance costs" while focusing on improved environmental outcomes.

The Trump Administration has argued that the EPA can't use the Clean Air Act to set emissions levels for the energy industry in general, but instead could regulate emissions at each individual source of emissions.

"We have ended the war on coal, and will continue to work to promote American energy dominance!" he tweeted in May.

It also would overhaul the triggers that prompt new permit reviews - and potentially expensive new pollution controls - that have been criticized as onerous by owners of power plants, refineries and other industrial sites. Although the Trump administration forecasts a 4.5 percent to 5.8 percent increase in the production of coal for generating electricity under its proposal, analysts say the shift is unlikely to reverse a spate of already announced closures of coal-fired power plants.

The administration's proposal is called the Affordable Clean Energy rule and, according to the Journal, is created to help revive the coal industry.

Despite Trump's support for coal plants, they continue to shut down.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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