EPA proposes relaxing coal plant emissions rule

Federico Mansilla
Agosto 21, 2018

But the proposed regulation from the Environmental Protection Agency, which would replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, has a serious flaw: it could make climate change worse.

The Trump proposal may open a small window for a revival of coal even as it prolongs uncertainty over the US electricity mix and casts doubt on investments by utilities making decades-long choices about new plants and upgrades.

Environmental advocates blasted the proposal, saying it will boost emissions from power plants, which emit about 28 percent of U.S. greenhouse gases, and worsen global warming. It would set pollution guidelines based on assumptions about what improvements could be eked out through efficiency upgrades at the facilities, then give states the latitude to design their own plans for paring carbon dioxide emissions at the sites.

The EPA says it is created to replace Obama's 2015 Clean Power Plan which called for cuts to greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, and a shift toward solar, wind, and less polluting natural gas. His plan restricted greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.

In a statement, Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said, "The ACE Rule would restore the rule of law and empower states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide modern, reliable, and affordable energy for all Americans".

"The entire Obama administration plan was centered around doing away with coal", Wheeler told the Journal, referencing the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan. But courts have ruled that the government has an obligation to regulate greenhouse gases via the "best system of emissions reduction". Legal challenges are already lining up, as the proposal awaits a 60-day comment period before it can be finalized.

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.

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The new proposed rule, which the EPA calls the "Affordable Clean Energy" rule, would eliminate Obama-era standards that would have required power plants to reduce carbon emissions either by converting from coal to cleaner sources of energy or by building carbon-capture technologies. John Barrasso from the coal state of Wyoming welcomed the overhaul of the Obama administration's 2015 regulations, called 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.

"They are continuing to play to their base and following industry's lead", McCarthy said of the Trump administration and its new acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist.

"This is another desperate attempt by the Trump Administration to prop up the dirty and obsolete coal industry, but it won't work", he continued. Although the Trump administration forecasts a 4.5 percent to 5.8 percent increase in the production of coal for generating electricity under its proposal, analysts say the shift is unlikely to reverse a spate of already announced closures of coal-fired power plants. Two years later, the EPA released a scientific document - known as the endangerment finding - showing that greenhouse gas emissions do just that.

Environmental groups were quick to criticize the move. "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"'.

"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.

Trump has vowed to end what Republicans call a "war on coal" waged by Obama.

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