The Trump administration has announced its long-awaited plan to scale back an Obama-era rule designed to cut emissions from the nation’s coal-fired power plants.
Under the proposed plan, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will grant authority to the states to create their own rules for coal-fired power plants. This new authority will give states the option to impose looser restrictions on those coal-fired plants operating within their borders. This is good news for U.S. coal miners who have been losing jobs in record numbers because of tighter restrictions placed on coal by the Obama administration.
The new plan does not set a hard goal for nationwide emissions reductions. Rather, it asks states to focus on requiring coal plants to run more efficiently. In fact, the Trump plan will give states the chance to forgo creating any new rules by allowing them to explain why they don’t need to take any action. Additionally, the EPA’s new plan will allow states to revise rules that currently require plants to conduct environmental reviews when they make upgrades.
The current process, known as New Source Review, was designed to prevent plants from making changes that lead to more pollution. According to some sources, the new plan will allow 12 times more greenhouse gas to be emitted over the next decade than under the previous “Clean Power Plan.”
However, the Trump Administration cannot simply throw out the Clean Power Plan because the EPA has an obligation to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. That obligation has been defined by a pair of Supreme Court rulings that recognize the EPA’s authority to regulate climate-warming emissions and the agency’s 2009 conclusion that those gases are a threat to public health and welfare.
According to Hal Quinn, President and CEO of the National Mining Association, “Through the replacement rule, the EPA has returned to a lawful framework for regulation of power plant emissions. The Clean Air Act created a system of shared authority by EPA and the states, and this proposal appropriately reflects that construct.
“The policy put forward by the previous administration was an illegal attempt to impose a political agenda on the country’s power system, to create what it called ‘a new energy economy.’ That ‘new energy economy’ would have had dire consequences for everyday Americans who depend on affordable, reliable coal-powered electricity, forcing the premature retirement of many existing coal plants, and increasing the vulnerability of our grid to supply outages and price spikes — an unacceptable proposal given the negligible environmental benefits.
“The replacement rule respects the infrastructure and economic realities that are unique to each state, allowing for state-driven solutions, as intended by the Clean Air Act, rather than top down mandates. It also embraces American innovation, by encouraging plant upgrades.
“Advancing the nation’s environmental protections does not have to come at the expense of American families, risking the reliability of our grid and sidestepping the law. The EPA and the Trump administration should be applauded for articulating a clear, legal proposal that considers the interests of all Americans.”
The plan will be open for public comment and the EPA has said it plans to issue a final rule early next year. Once it is finalized, states would have three years to submit a compliance plan. EPA would have one year to approve or deny those state blueprints; if a state failed to submit an adequate plan, EPA would impose a federal option within two years.
However, it is very likely that Democrat state attorneys general and environmental groups will file lawsuits in an effort to block the plan on the grounds that it doesn’t adequately address greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal. Legal limbo could stall the regulations from taking effect.