Trump EPA rolls back Obama’s coal crackdown

20 June, 2019, 03:39 | Author: Darnell Taylor
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The Trump administration is expected to unveil a new carbon emission rule for the US power industry on Wednesday, replacing an Obama-era regulation to fight climate change that it scrapped for being too hard on the coal industry.

The company's president and CEO, Robert Murray, noted his company filed the first lawsuit to challenge the Obama Clean Power Plan and that the U.S. Supreme Court acted to block its implementation until lower courts could hear legal challenges.

Lawmakers and industry representatives from coal states blamed federal regulation, not the market, for the decades-long trend of declining USA coal use, and said Wednesday's act would stave off more coal plant closings.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the Trump administration's rollback of a rule targeting coal-fired power plants is "a stunning giveaway to big polluters". States can choose from a list of EPA-approved options to improve existing coal-fired power plants, a provision that critics say could make it easier for utilities to keep the facilities open instead of moving to cleaner energy sources and eliminating the use of fossil fuels.

The policy would have required states to submit extensive plans on how they would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by requiring power plants to install new technology or switching to more renewable energy sources.

"I think the final ACE rule is consistent with President Trump's commitment to get the EPA out of the business of telling American workers and coal workers how and when they will work", said Mandy Gunasekara, a former senior EPA official who now runs Energy 45 Fund, a pro-Trump advocacy group.

The Clean Power Plan was one of former U.S. President Barack Obama's signature efforts to curb climate-changing emissions. Competition from cheaper natural gas and renewable fuel has continued a yearslong trend driving US coal plant closings to near-record levels past year, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

But environmental groups, who referred to Trump's rule as "the dirty power plan", have vowed to challenge the rule in the courts.

The EPA move follows pledges by candidate and then President Donald Trump to rescue the US coal industry, which saw near-record numbers of plant closings previous year in the face of competition from cheaper natural gas and renewables.

Attorney General Letitia James announced the state's intentions on Twitter shortly after the Environmental Protection Agency replaced the rule with a less ambitious one.

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FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sign is seen on the podium at EPA headquarters in Washington, U.S., July 11, 2018.

A Reuters survey last October of 44 utilities that have announced plans to shutter coal units in coming years showed none of them expected the new EPA proposal would affect the timing of those retirements. While the ACE rule would result in an absolute reduction of a variety of emissions (from carbon dioxide to nitrogen oxides to particulate matter) compared to nothing, the EPA's own analysis admitted that an estimated 1,400 additional deaths would occur every year under the ACE rule compared to implementing the CPP.

Pelosi said in a statement that climate change is "the existential threat of our time" and that the administration is ignoring scientific studies about climate change and yielding to special interests.

He has moved to withdraw the United States from the 2016 Paris Agreement, the worldwide accord that aims to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and limit global temperature rise this century to below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Trump has rejected scientific warnings on climate change, including a dire report this year from scientists at more than a dozen federal agencies noting that global warming from fossil fuels "presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life".

Wheeler told reporters after the signing that he expected new coal plants to open as a result.

Since coming to office, Trump has taken a number of steps that environmentalists have described as an "attack" on the fight against climate change.

An Associated Press analysis Tuesday of federal air data showed USA progress on cleaning the air may be stagnating after decades of improvement. "She makes reference to the administration's "#DirtyPower rule".

U.S. Democratic Senator Tom Carper said the EPA plan was based on "a warped reinterpretation of the Clean Air Act that allows states to decide whether or not to regulate one of the largest sources of carbon emissions in our country".


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