Trump administration rolls back Obama rule on coal-fired power plants

Trump moves to gut Obama climate policy and bolster the coal industry

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said yesterday that fossil fuels will remain "a key part of the energy mix", despite increasing retirements of coal generation units in the U.S. Details regarding the final rules have been submitted to the Federal Register, one of the last steps to making federal rules official in the US.

Nicholas Steckler, head of USA power at BloombergNEF summed up coal's predicament this way: "Coal is inferior to natural gas in many ways today - it's less flexible, it's higher cost, even its fuel is generally more expensive, and, of course, it's dirty. It has so many reasons stacked against it".

The Trump administration has rolled back a landmark Obama-era effort targeting coal-fired power plants and their climate-damaging pollution.

The new Affordable Clean Energy rule allows states to set their own goals for greenhouse gas emissions. The rule also makes it easier for power plants to make efficiency upgrades without triggering additional repairs. This all occurred without the CPP going into effect due to the Supreme Court's stay of the rule because of litigation.

Industry advocates say the Trump administration is curbing federal government overreach and leveling the playing field.

"The so-called war on coal is based upon economics, not regulation", Thaddeus Lightfoot, a partner at the law firm Dorsey & Whitney, said in an email.

Still, the EPA touted the rule-change as a huge win for Trump.

Interestingly, the EPA believes that the ACE rules will be driven by market forces when, in fact, the market has been voting with its feet against coal for years.

The Trump administration has officially finalized its rollback of an Obama-era policy that would have targeted coal plants and mandated strict reductions in carbon emissions. He also promised that "electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket".

"The contrast between our approach and the Green New Deal or plans like it couldn't be clearer", Mr. Wheeler said at a press conference where he signed the rule. "That's counterproductive climate policy and bad energy policy".

Wheeler said the rule would bring economic growth and affordable energy while improving the environment.

The EPA anticipates that the ACE rule when fully implemented, along with additional expected emissions reductions based on long-term industry trends, will result in as much as a 35 percent reduction in Carbon dioxide emissions from the electric sector by 2030 from 2005 levels.

The Environmental Protection Agency's finalized plan to repeal and replace the Clean Power Plan (CPP) received widespread praise from the right, but one conservative group says the less-stringent replacement rule is still illegal.

On the campaign trail in 2016, Trump promised to revive the coal industry and restore mining jobs - a message that resonated with the working-class voters who helped elect him.

Rep. Glenn Thompson, Pennsylvania Republican, called Mr. Obama's initiative the "Coal Punishment Plan".

Specifically, ACE identifies heat rate improvements as the best system of emission reduction (BSER) for Carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants, and these improvements can be made at individual facilities. It would give power plants more time to decrease emissions while continuing to operate.

The new rule drew immediate criticisms from environmentalists and some USA lawmakers and they branded the rule as "Dirty Power Plan".

Beyond Carbon, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's new initiative to shut down all US coal plants by 2030, acknowledged the damage that could be done by the Trump administration's plan while also arguing that it could not stop the national shift away from fossil fuels. Similarly, emissions from coal plants operated by regulated utilities would increase 28%, the study found.

While the Obama administration and Democrats saw the Clean Power Plan as a crucial component in worldwide efforts to curb global warming, Republicans have long claimed those regulations went too far and were too costly.

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