Trump administration proposes rolling back Obama's Clean Power Plan

Pat Wise
August 22, 2018

John Barrasso from the coal state of Wyoming welcomed the overhaul of the Obama administration's 2015 regulations, called the Clean Power Plan.

Tuesday's move opens a public-comment period on the proposal before any final administration action.

"EPA is not denying that climate change is happening or EPA's obligation to address the harmful health impacts of carbon pollution that's fueling climate change", says Gina McCarthy, head of the EPA under President Obama.

Critics say the new plan would allow utilities to run older, dirtier power plants more often and extend the plants' overall operating life, undercutting potential environmental benefits.

The approach shows the Trump administration abandoning Obama's expansive view of what constitutes the "best system of emission reductions" for a more narrow, facility-focused interpretation that conservatives say is within the bounds of the Clean Air Act that provides the framework for air pollution regulations.

The Trump administration is preparing a plan to give states broad authority to determine how to restrict carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. States have three years to evaluate their power plants and submit proposals for compliance, after which the EPA has another year to review - all before any implementation begins.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) released a statement on Tuesday applauding President Donald Trump and his administration's roll back of an Obama administration climate rule. Particulates from coal-fired power plants lead to a variety of bad health effects, from asthma to premature heart disease.

Trump, who is expected to tout the plan at a rally Tuesday night in West Virginia, loves what he has called "beautiful, clean coal" and has launched a widespread effort to save the energy source from disappearing from the USA energy mix. 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.

A technical analysis released by the EPA suggests that the new plan would decrease carbon dioxide emissions by no more than 2% compared to doing nothing.

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"The announcement of a replacement rule may largely represent a political milestone for a president who promised to end his predecessor's 'war on coal, ' but we also view it as a significant policy action that could to make it hard for a differently oriented successor to establish greenhouse gas limits on any stationary sector via executive discretion", ClearView Energy Partners managing director Kevin Book said in a research note to clients.

Trump's regulations would allow the states rather than the federal government to create emission standards.

Since his days campaigning for president, Trump has promised to revive the failing coal industry-telling miners in West Virginia two years ago to get ready to start "working your asses off"-and ignored the well documented consequences for human health and the planet".

The Trump Administration's rule is expected to face the same opposition that the Clean Power Plan faced: that rule was put on hold by the Supreme Court in February 2016, and when Trump took office he moved to do away with the plan entirely.

In many states, the CPP's limits on emissions have already been met because the cost of generating power from natural gas and renewable energy like wind and solar is cheaper than coal.

Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a proposed rule, called the "Affordable Clean Energy Rule", which would direct states to inventory their power plants and come up with a plan to regulate the greenhouse gas emissions of individual plants.

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

But that still might not be enough to dramatically alter the landscape for USA coal, which is losing US customers as utilities increasingly turn to natural gas and renewable power to generate electricity. "This revised approach will help continue the trend of lower electric power sector emissions while preserving America's energy edge and respecting environmental law".

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