Trump to relax carbon limits on power plants to support U.S. coal

Jim Watson  AFP  Getty Images

Jim Watson AFP Getty Images

The plunging price for natural gas, as well as for solar and wind energy, have pushed utilities to move toward cleaner burning fuels, regardless of federal regulations.

The proposal lays out several possible pathways that individual states might use for regulating coal-fired power plants, and what the consequences would be for pollution and human health in each case.

Vivian Stockman of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition said it's hard to trust states making appropriate decisions when it comes to emissions.

According to Robert Howarth, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University, giving states regulatory power over pollution makes no sense.

It gives states much more authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, for example, allowing coal power plants to replace older equipment and extend the plant's life.

Trump is taking action on a promise to revive the coal industry, which is still big in West Virginia, and ease regulations on energy producers.

The Clean Power Plan - created to be the centerpiece of his presidency-defining mission to combat climate change - has been watered down to the point of irrelevance by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

He also has directed Energy Secretary Rick Perry to take steps to bolster struggling coal-fired and nuclear power plants to keep them open, warning that impending retirements of "fuel-secure" power plants that rely on coal and nuclear power are harming the nation's power grid and reducing its resilience.

The Obama administration joined the Paris climate accord in 2016, promising to cut USA greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025.

EPA officials said they could give no firm projections for the health effects of their plan because that will depend on how states regulate power plants within their borders.

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

The change of plans announced in the Federal Register on Tuesday came as the EPA announced another proposed change to an Obama carbon pollution rule.

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Trump has already vowed to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement as he pushes to revive the coal industry.

"If the Trump administration's proposal to dismantle the Clean Power Plan is adopted, we will work with our state and local partners to file suit to block it - in order to protect New Yorkers, and all Americans, from the increasingly devastating impacts of climate change", Underwood said.

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from E&E News.

Taken as a whole, the Clean Power Plan would have provided up to $45 billion in climate and public health benefits per year, even considering all compliance costs.

Just like Morrisey fought the Obama rule in court, several Democratic states like MA have promised to do the exact same thing for this new rule.

This is just the latest in a series of efforts by the Trump administration to roll back environmental protections.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said the proposal was "an absolute nightmare for coal country" and 'the Trump administration has laid out a better path'.

Trump's proposal for modest efficiency improvements at power plants falls far short of what's needed to combat climate change, environmentalists said.

"The era of top down, one-size-fits-all federal mandates is over", EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said on a conference call.

Even under the administration plan, power sector emissions will continue to decline.

By 2030, carbon dioxide levels would be 0.7 percent to 1.5 percent lower than they would have without any regulation in place, it said, a reduction of 12 million to 24 million metric tons. The Supreme Court put the brakes on it in 2016 after energy-producing states sued the EPA, saying it had exceeded its legal reach.

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