EPA unveils weaker alternative to Obama power plant rule

Jim Watson  AFP  Getty Images

And that may be optimistic, because any effort to make coal plants more efficient is likely to increase their importance in the overall power-generation system, meaning more dirty energy and potentially higher emissions.

The EPA's proposal is open for a public comment period, with a final rule expected later this year.

Environmental groups were quick to criticize the move.

Critics say the decision will result in much more carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere.

EPA acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the agency's plan will provide more clarity when it comes to regulations. According to the agency, once the plan is fully implemented, power sector emissions could fall 33 to 34 per cent below 2005 levels - roughly mirroring the same target as Obama's initiative, which sought to cut those greenhouse gas emissions 32 per cent relative to 2005.

The Environmental Protection Agency says states will be given guidelines for setting performance standards for existing coal-fired power plants.

The move marks the latest effort by Trump's administration to roll back the environmental legacy of his Democratic predecessor, having pulled out of the 2015 Paris climate accord aimed at slashing global fossil fuel emissions.

Trump, who is expected to tout the plan at a rally Tuesday night in West Virginia, loves what he has called "beautiful, clean coal" and has launched a widespread effort to save the energy source from disappearing from the US energy mix. And it may not be enough to save many coal plants. The AP obtained a copy of the summary, which asserts that the Obama-era plan exceeds the EPA's authority under the Clean Air Act.

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The Environmental Protection Agency's "Affordable Clean Energy" proposal would replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan's sweeping changes in the US electricity mix with more modest emissions curbs at individual power plants.

"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. "Today's proposal provides the states and regulated community the certainty they need to continue environmental progress while fulfilling President Trump's goal of energy dominance".

Since his days campaigning for president, Trump has promised to revive the failing coal industry-telling miners in West Virginia two years ago to get ready to start "working your asses off"-and ignored the well documented consequences for human health and the planet".

The Supreme Court put Obama's plan on hold in 2016 following a legal challenge by industry and coal-friendly states, an order that remains in effect.

The Journal reported that acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a proposal that calls for states to regulate emissions from power plants, undoing a move from President Barack Obama that made those emissions regulated by the federal government for the first time.

Morrisey's office on Tuesday seized on the Trump administration's announcement, calling it a "critical step" to reverse the impact Obama administration regulations had on the coal industry.

"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.

Trump has vowed to end what Republicans call a "war on coal" waged by Obama. Some 40 percent of coal plants in operation in 2010 are now closed or slated for closure, according to estimates from the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

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