Update: On the morning of October 9, the EPA officially confirmed that it will repeal the Clean Power Plan this coming Tuesday.
Speaking at a coal-focused event in Kentucky alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, EPA chief Scott Pruitt said that “regulatory power should not be used by any regulatory body to pick winners and losers,” adding that “the past administration was unapologetic,” according to The Hill.
“They were using every bit of power, every bit of authority, to use the EPA to pick winners and losers in how we generate electricity in this country. And that’s wrong.”
Although a replacement rule was expected to be announced at the same time, all that is known at present is that Obama’s signature climate change mitigation plan will be nixed, leaving the country without no framework whatsoever for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), after being asked back in March to “suspend, revise or rescind” the Clean Power Plan (CPP) – one of Obama’s signature greenhouse gas-cutting schemes – has decided to scrap it, and will replace it with something else as of yet unknown.
According to a document obtained by Reuters, the content of the CPP’s replacement will be advised by various groups, including those working in industry. This will take a significant amount of time to process, which means that there’s a chance the CPP will never be replaced.
This sounds bad at a glance, but let’s actually take a look at what the CPP is. Proposed by the previous administration, the plan is designed to drastically reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) output of the US specifically in order to mitigate climate change. It aimed to reduce 2005 power plant emission levels by 32 percent by 2030, something considered to be ambitious when the plan was proposed.
Sadly, the CPP didn’t go down well with states that rely more heavily on fossil fuels than others, and 27 of them used the courts to stop it being legally enacted. They succeeded, in that it’s still stuck in a legal quagmire; the election of the climate denial-peddling President Trump ensured that it was all but dead.
So the EPA, headed by Scott Pruitt – the most anti-scientific, coal-friendly EPA chief in American history – is effectively going to repeal a rule that never actually had any legal framework. This is posturing to appease donors and the voter base, plain and simple.
Weirdly, there is some good news in all this, despite the dreadful message it sends out to the rest of the world. The CPP’s targets are already way ahead of schedule.
As a recent analysis showed, power plant GHGs in 2016 had already dropped 24 percent below 2005 levels, and there’s still 14 years to go before the listed deadline arrives. At the current rate, the GHG-slashing targets will be not just met, but exceeded, before 2030 – despite the fact that the CPP technically isn’t even in operation.
There are a variety of reasons for this, including the fact that renewable energy growth across the US as of late has been exponential. Those in power that lean Democrat often invest in clean energy because it’s environmentally friendly and helps fight against climate change, and those that lean Republican do so simply because it’s cheaper than coal.
Already, thanks to the individual actions of states, the US is halfway towards meeting the goals stated in the Paris agreement – something the White House announced it was withdrawing from in 2020.
The EPA, under the Trump administration, is doing terrible things, yes – but it can’t stop the march of progress.