Published: Sun, December 09, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Trump EPA acts to roll back control on climate-changing coal

Trump EPA acts to roll back control on climate-changing coal

The Trump administration will reverse an Obama-era coal emissions rule as part of its effort to loosen restrictions on the coal industry, just days after a U.S. government report warned that aggressive action is needed to curb greenhouse gases and ease the impact of global warming.

Under the previous rule, the Obama rule, uh, any new coal fired power plant had to have these, a carbon capture devices. And if it was serious about protecting clean air, clean water and public health, it would not be trying to push for more conventional coal-fired power, the most polluting source of electricity, linked to asthma, cancer, heart and lung ailments, neurological problems, acid rain, climate change, and other severe environmental and public health impacts.

"Their interpretation was disingenuous", Wheeler said of the Obama administration.

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

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plan, announced Thursday, would no longer mandate that plants meet the strict emissions goals of achieving emissions equal to or less than what plants would have achieved with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. He and other Republicans frequently attacked former President Barack Obama for waging what they called a "war on coal" through increased regulations that Republicans said killed jobs and harmed the industry.

In place of Obama-era standards, Wheeler pledged to promulgate "high but achievable standards that are rooted in reality".

The Obama administration had launched the plan to protect the sage-grouse in September 2015 as an alternative to listing the ground-dwelling bird under the Endangered Species Act, a move that would potentially have entailed even tougher habitat protections. CEO Tom Fanning told Utility Dive he still did not expect to invest in new coal plants or upgrades for his existing units because of competition from cheaper resources.

It's unclear whether the new policy boost will overcome market forces that are making US coal plants ever more unprofitable.

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Building new coal plants would be expensive, however.

But advocates of renewable energy say that the sort of drastic reductions in carbon dioxide emissions needed to slow global warming would come only with the continued closing of coal plants and replacing them with wind, solar or geothermal facilities. They blasted the EPA's announcement.

EPA's own economic analysis on the NSPS rollback aligns with those trends, saying that new coal generators are unlikely.

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signs an order withdrawing an Obama era emissions standards policy, at the EPA Headquarters in Washington.

Asked if the EPA had an estimate on whether the new proposal would result in many new coal plants being built, Wheeler said that was not up to the agency.

"Sending a signal of minimal ambition, if any, is the wrong direction to go when we've just been told by the National Climate Assessment that things are pretty dire", she said, calling it the latest signal of the administration's disregard for climate-related risks.

Even if new plants are not built, Wheeler hopes looser pollution regulations could lead to the development of new, non-CCS technologies that can be used in plants overseas.

"Today's actions reflect our approach of defining new, clean coal standards by data and the latest technological information, not wishful thinking", he said in a statement.

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