Trump Eases Coal-Pollution Curbs in Unwinding More Obama Rules

Daniel Acker  Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Trump's plan broadly increases the leeway given states to decide how and how much to regulate coal power plants.

"When you have a president who doesn't believe in climate change and a former coal lobbyist running the Environmental Protection Agency, they'll stop at nothing to keep a dirty, dying industry on life support-no matter the cost to people and the planet".

Environmental groups said his plan's focus on improving efficiency of coal-fired generators could end up raising overall carbon emissions.

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.

The EPA's own analysis of the Trump administration proposal also estimated that it will lead to an increase in pollution-related illnesses, like asthma, and a rise in premature deaths.

The Trump administration signaled Monday it is intent on removing some Obama-era environmental rules by signing a proposal that would soften regulations on coal-burning power plants.

The rule also could allow power plant owners to sidestep costly permits for those improvements.

Tuesday's proposal is the latest move by the current administration to roll back environmental protections put in place by Trump's predecessor, President Barack Obama. Today, about a third of USA electricity is generated from coal-fired power plants, down from more than half at the turn of the century.

Wheeler is expected to formally announce the decision in a news call with reporters Tuesday morning.

Trump's efforts to save coal have included everything from moving to pull out of the Paris Agreement on climate change to using national security law to propose intervening in electricity markets to protect coal.

The Natural Resources Defense Council called the replacement proposal Trump's 'Dirty Power Plan'. The Obama administration had worked to nudge the country's power producers to natural gas, wind and solar power, and other less-polluting power sources.

"A coal plant that operates more efficiently may be called upon to run more hours, increasing the total amount of Carbon dioxide emitted overall", Lissa Lynch, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.

The Supreme Court put the plan on hold in 2016 following a legal challenge by industry and coal-friendly states, an order that remains in effect.

Wehrum said that because of the shifting energy landscape, he expected emissions to fall at a rate "roughly comparable" to the goals outlined under the Obama-era plan, which called for a 26 percent cut in greenhouse gases from power plants by 2025, compared to 2005 levels.

EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the proposal "would restore the rule of law and empower states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions" while providing "modern, reliable, and affordable energy for all Americans".

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

Morrisey's office on Tuesday seized on the Trump administration's announcement, calling it a "critical step" to reverse the impact Obama administration regulations had on the coal industry.

Still, the low cost of natural gas and renewable power are not affected by these new rules, the rules only make it somewhat easier for coal to compete. Conservatives have filed a half dozen petitions challenging the endangerment finding, though Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler has signaled he is not eager to reconsider the issue. We have ended the war on coal, and will continue to work to promote American energy dominance!

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