Trump administration moves to relax coal pollution rules

Rodiano Bonacci
Agosto 21, 2018

That trend is likely to continue, but it may happen at a slower rate under the new plan, because the cost of using coal may not go up as anticipated. Environmental groups say it will harm the fight against global warming.

"The plan calls for only modest efficiency improvements at individual power plants, which will barely make a dent in cutting heat-trapping emissions from the electricity sector, and could even, under some circumstances, lead to increased emissions depending on how much the plants are run", said Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Although efficiency upgrades would reduce the amount of carbon dioxide produced per unit of power, overall carbon emissions could increase if more efficient coal power plants are able to compete on price with natural gas. His plan restricted greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.

'They are continuing to play to their base and following industry's lead, ' Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator when the Obama plan was developed, said of the Trump administration and its new acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist.

Trump's regulations would allow the states rather than the federal government to create emission standards. The EPA's own scientific analysis of its new rule reportedly admits that the Affordable Clean Energy Rule could lead to almost 1,400 extra deaths per year compared to what would have occurred under the Clean Power Plan.

Trump's EPA says its replacement would be cheaper too, costing some $400 million less each year than Obama's carbon dioxide curbs.

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

"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.

EPA acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the agency's plan will provide more clarity when it comes to regulations.

The Trump plan "will make no meaningful reductions" in greenhouse gas emissions "and it probably will make emissions worse", Doniger said.

The EPA is not altering its landmark 2009 conclusion that greenhouse gases threaten health and human welfare - a finding underpinning the power plant regulation and compelling the Trump's move Tuesday. "We're not proposing to rescind the endangerment finding".

But the political reality is that despite the real world evidence of record-hot summers, historic floods, and unprecedented wildfires, the Trump administration remains more focused on coal interests in West Virginia than the risks of global warming.

"This is really a plan to prop up coal plants - or try to", said David Doniger, a climate expert at the Natural Resources Defence Council, an environmental group. "The law could not be more clear: It requires EPA to adopt the 'best system of emissions reduction, ' but the EPA has instead opted for the 'lamest system of emissions reduction"'.

The Trump administration proposal was cheered by business leaders and conservatives who said the Obama initiative illegally sought to compel more renewable power and quash coal.

"Today's announcement is an important step toward a more collaborative process that fits within EPA's statutory authority and will result in achievable progress through more practical, state-driven programs", said Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Global Energy Institute. We have ended the war on coal, and will continue to work to promote American energy dominance! In total, the Clean Power Plan aimed to reduce emissions from the power sector by 32% by 2030.

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