Published: Sat, June 22, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Trump administration energy rule pleases Ohio Republicans, upsets Democrats and environmental groups

Trump administration energy rule pleases Ohio Republicans, upsets Democrats and environmental groups

Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, signed a replacement rule that gives states leeway in deciding whether to require efficiency upgrades at existing coal plants.

"Later today, the EPA will be finalizing it", Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday, giving the rule his support.

That stands in contrast to its predecessor, the Clean Power Plan, which was never fully-implemented. ACE will now face a similar situation.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson slammed the new rule.

The rule "does nothing to reduce carbon dioxide emissions or to promote clean energy generation", Becerra said in a statement.

At a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing last week about the direction of the EPA, former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy - who finalized the Clean Power Plan under Obama - said she believes the proposed Affordable Clean Energy rule, as well as other proposed rules the agency has made since Trump took office, undermines "the science and the law in how they're trying to roll back those rules".

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) also indicated it is ready to sue.

"Utilities may respond to this rule by making hardware fixes or operational changes that. could mean some coal trousers will run longer", said Joe Goffman, executive director of the Environmental & Energy Law Program at Harvard and former EPA General Counsel, who worked on the Clean Power Plan.

To be certain, under the new EPA proposal, the carbon emissions rules have been eliminated, to be certain.

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NRDC says the EPA should instead have strengthened the Obama-era regulation to cut power plant emissions by 60% from 2005 levels by 2030. While the ACE rule would result in an absolute reduction of a variety of emissions (from carbon dioxide to nitrogen oxides to particulate matter) compared to nothing, the EPA's own analysis admitted that an estimated 1,400 additional deaths would occur every year under the ACE rule compared to implementing the CPP.

"We're working closely with our partners in both the public and private sectors to research new energy technologies, and a prime example of this is the excellent work that's already underway on carbon capture utilization and storage, or CCUS, which will make our domestic coal fleet more efficient", said Dan Brouillette, deputy secretary of the Energy Department. But Lynch said the law "sets no such restriction" and its language "allows a more flexible conception. including the use of credits or trading to enable deeper reductions".

Borden said the EPA itself lists reasons why the new plan will be harmful to the environment.

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club said,"Trump and [EPA Administrator] Wheeler are pushing a plan that will lead to thousands of deaths while ignoring the public's demands for aggressive climate action, just so a handful of wealthy coal executives can make a little more money".

He says coal's real problem, is the lower cost of natural gas and alternate fuels.

The new rule is aimed at helping struggling coal power plants remain open, and is expected to hamper efforts to cut carbon emissions. Since he took office in January 2017, Trump has criticised what he has called the excessive number of regulations imposed by the 2009-2017 Obama administration and moved to revitalize the U.S. coal industry.

"It won't necessarily be the saving grace for coal", but "this regulation gives coal a fighting chance", said Nick Loris, an economist with the Heritage Foundation.

The ACE sets guidelines for states to develop performance standards for power plants to boost the amount of power produced relative to the amount of coal burned.

Some 65 gigawatts of coal-fired electric generating capacity have gone offline since 2011 - with another 41 gigawatts pending retirement and 105 gigawatts at risk of closure, according to BloombergNEF. But one state, New York, immediately said it would go to court to challenge the action, and more lawsuits are likely. Spokeswoman Jennifer Young said her company now owns just two coal-fired electricity plants, which are in West Virginia, and the company doesn't anticipate the new rules will affect their operations.

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