Trump’s EPA Replaces Obama Climate Rule

Katie Ramirez
June 21, 2019

On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced that it would replace the Clean Power Plan with the Affordable Clean Energy rule or ACE. Trump campaigned partly on a pledge to bring back the coal industry, which has been hit hard by competition from cheaper natural gas and renewable energy.

"Strengthening the Clean Power Plan is our best option for cleaning up the dirty power plants that make up more than a third of our carbon footprint", said a statement from NRDC president Rhea Suh.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee hearing on the FY2020 EPA Budget on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 9, 2019.

From his earliest days in office, President Trump has targeted the Clean Power Plan.

"Keep in mind, the Clean Power Plan had little or no effect on the environment, but the reality was, it was devastating to our coal industry across America, coal country", said Rep. David B. McKinley, a West Virginia Republican who chairs the congressional Coal Caucus.

New York Attorney General Letitia James said Tuesday she plans to sue the EPA over the rule.

Democrats pledge to make combatting climate change a major issue in the presidential race. "It also hurts the competitiveness of American businesses".

The Clean Power Plan was one of former U.S. President Barack Obama's signature efforts to curb climate-changing emissions. In 2016, the Supreme Court blocked the regulation, but some plants had already started to work on reducing pollution.

Obama's 2015 Clean Power Plan is now stayed by the Supreme Court while challenges play out from more than two dozen states that contend it exceeded authority under the federal Clean Air Act. EPA argues that any comparison to the Obama rule is incongruous because it was never implemented.

A senior EPA official says the list of technologies approved by the agency does not include carbon capture or technologies to capture and store carbon, because the agency found it was not cost effective.

Despite scientists' increasingly urgent warnings, the Trump administration ordered a sweeping about-face Wednesday on Obama-era efforts to fight climate change, easing restrictions on coal-fired power plants in a move it predicted would revitalize America's sagging coal industry.

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But under President Donald Trump, the agency says the Clean Power Plan went too far by trying to shut down coal-fired power plants. This means states with coal mines can continue to operate those mines without being forced to meet what they considered burdensome regulations from the federal government.

EPA expected opposition and even legal action from environmentalists and Democratic-led states, but Competitive Enterprise Institute's (CEI) criticism of the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule likely caught officials by surprise. "Unlike the CPP, the ACE rule adheres to the four corners of the Clean Air Act".

The ACE sets guidelines for states to develop performance standards for power plants to boost the amount of power produced relative to the amount of coal burned.

USA coal-plant closings have reached near record numbers in recent years owing to competition from cheaper natural gas and renewable energy.

Steam rises from Duke Energy's Marshall Power Plant in Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, U.S. November 29, 2018.

Congressmen from states with coal mines that greatly impact their economy like Pennsylvania, Ohio and IN attended the ACE event announcement, voicing their support for the move.

Wheeler told reporters after signing the ACE rule that EPA will address NSR reform in a separate rulemaking that will be finalized separate in the coming months but he did not specify a timeline.

"I'm glad that the current leadership here at the EPA understands that we can have smart environmental regulations and protect coal jobs and our economy at the same time", Johnson said. "There is no serious debate - climate change is a severe threat and we ignore science at our own peril".

EPA's own regulatory analysis last year estimated that Trump's replacement ACE rule would kill an extra 300 to 1,500 people each year by 2030, owing to additional air pollution from the power grid.

"It's positive for the coal industry for certain because we struggled with the Obama administration and everything they did", Raney said.

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