Trump’s EPA releases plan gutting Obama’s climate rule targeting coal

Author: Josh Siegel, The Washington Examiner - August 21, 2018 - Updated: September 10, 2018

Xcel Energy’s Comanche coal-fired power plant stands just southeast of Pueblo. (The Chieftain/File)

The Trump administration on Tuesday unveiled a proposal to replace the Clean Power Plan, former President Barack Obama’s signature initiative to combat climate change, with a narrower rule more friendly to industry.

The Environmental Protection Agency introduced its proposal, renamed the “Affordable Clean Energy Rule,” Tuesday morning. President Donald Trump is expected to tout it at a rally in coal-friendly West Virginia later in the evening.

Colorado produced about 15 million tons of coal last year, up about 2 million from the year before, according to the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety.

The state’s leading power utility, Xcel Energy, has been scaling back its use of coal to produce electricity in favor of natural gas, the price of which has fallen in recent years.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, issued a statement Tuesday morning blasting the proposed rollback.

“President Trump claims he is ending the war on coal. In reality, his plan creates more uncertainty for coal miners. This is not a plan—it’s a punt,” Bennet said. The President is placing the views of extreme partisans and special interests above the overwhelming judgment of scientists. Meanwhile, our children will continue to get sick, more wildfires will rage throughout the West, and more storms will damage our coasts.”

He added, “In the absence of leadership from Washington, Colorado will continue to reduce our emissions, grow our clean energy economy, and fulfill our obligation to safeguard the environment for the next generation.”

The 2015 Clean Power Plan, which was never implemented because of a Supreme Court stay, required states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, by shifting away from coal plants to natural gas and renewable energy. It was the pledge that underpinned the U.S.’ commitment to the Paris climate change agreement before Trump rejected the deal.

Trump’s replacement plan will give more power to states to regulate their coal plants, and could even allow states to opt out of regulating carbon emissions.

The proposal would cut carbon dioxide emissions from 2005 levels by between 0.7 percent and 1.5 percent by 2030, compared with a business-as-usual approach, the Washington Post reported this past weekend. It does not set a specific target for emission reductions.

By comparison, the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan aimed to reduce carbon emissions by about 19 percent during that same time.

The rewritten rule will achieve more modest carbon reduction impacts because it regulates power plants individually, instead of pushing for broad changes to the U.S. electricity mix, which is already naturally shifting away from coal to cheaper and cleaner alternatives.

The EPA would mandate heat rate improvements in power plants, enabling them to run more efficiently by burning less coal to produce the same amount of electricity.

And it would ease regulations that force power plants to undergo new pollution reviews when they upgrade facilities.

Environmentalists and states are likely to sue over the proposal, which still faces a 60-day public comment period before being finalized.

Gina McCarthy, the EPA administrator in Obama’s second term, told reporters Monday that the Trump proposal would not significantly cut carbon emissions because it would help keep alive coal plants that would otherwise retire.

“That is essentially a huge gimme to coal-power plants by giving them a free pass,” she said.

Josh Siegel, The Washington Examiner