EPA rolls back coal rule despite climate change warnings

Mindy Sparks
December 9, 2018

Also on December 6, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed rolling back an Obama-era rule requiring new U.S. coal plants to slash carbon emissions, a move that could crack open the door in coming years for new plants fired by the fossil fuel. The agency said that the use of coal by the USA power sector will drop by 4 percent, or 691 million short tons, during 2018.

President Donald Trump promised to bring back coal miners' jobs and remove regulations on coal as a central part of his campaign, saying the Obama administration went too far to impose rules meant to limit pollution and emissions that contribute to climate change.

The proposal also limits carbon dioxide emissions from 1,400 pounds per megawatt-hour to 1,900 pounds.

In a ceremony today at the agency, acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a proposal to dismantle a 2015 rule that any new coal power plants include cutting-edge techniques to capture the carbon dioxide from their smokestacks. The EPA hopes to finalize the rule after a public comment period.

Trump "talks tough to the coal miners to get their support, but he doesn't deliver for them, and I don't think that he can, because the markets are bigger than him", said Joe Pizarchik, who directed the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement in the Obama administration.

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler speaks to staff at the Environmental Protection Agency headquarters on July 11, 2018, in Washington, D.C. He argued the result of the rollback would be cheaper energy.

But like other Trump administration efforts to roll back Obama-era regulations, the decision is nearly certain to face legal challenges from environmental groups. "But as the world discusses meaningful solutions to deal with climate change, this EPA is choosing, instead, to exacerbate the problem by doubling down on dirty coal technology", said Carper.

Companies like Duke Energy have announced plans to close coal-fired power plants, according to the Charlotte Observer, and say they don't plan to open more coal-powered facilities in the future.

Trump's agenda to encourage more fossil fuels use clashes with a congressionally mandated government report that came out last month saying climate change is driven mainly by human activity and will cost the USA economy hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century. It would cause hundreds of billions of dollars in damage each year by the end of the century, the government's National Climate Assessment said. But he added "a lot of the media's focused on is the worst-case scenario". Now perhaps repealing this rule might encourage coal companies to go out there and build new plants and whatever, but considering the staggering drop in demand, that seems unlikely, so this may actually be one of those cases where the Trump administration comes in, repeals and Obama rule allows for more pollution, but that pollution may not actually materialize because they're, once again, essentially betting on a dead horse because that's what coal is at this point. "We're not trying to pick winners and losers".

"Today's announcement is yet another doomed attempt by the Trump administration to prop up the coal industry".

Jay Duffy, a lawyer with the Clean Air Task Force environmental nonprofit, called the level-playing field argument of the administration and its supporters "laughable".

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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