Trump Admin Rolls Back Clean Power Plan In Favor Of The (Much Weaker) Affordable Clean Energy Rule

Whatever Trump might say, 'clean coal' does not exist. mark reinstein/Shutterstock

The Trump administration pulled the plug on the Clean Power Plan (CPP) on Wednesday, replacing the Obama-era legislation with the (much weaker) Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule. This policy puts the onus on the states to regulate and reduce carbon emissions – a move critics say will result in higher emissions and poorer health. 

The 2015 CPP was introduced to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with an overall aim to cut electricity sector emissions to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. It is worth pointing out that this was never properly implemented but had it been, as many as 3,600 premature deaths, 1,700 heart attacks, and 90,000 asthma attacks could have been prevented each year – not to mention up to 300,000 missed work and school days.

But Trump's White House has been notoriously pro-fossil fuel, with a number of ex-execs and lobbyists appointed to positions of power and threats to repeal the CPP in play from day one. On Wednesday, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Andrew Wheeler (a former lobbyist himself) followed through on those plans, addressing a crowd of miners and coal-country lawmakers.

"The CPP would have asked low- and middle-income Americans to bear the costs of the previous administration’s climate plan," Wheeler told audiences, announcing the new ACE.

"One analysis predicted double-digit electricity price increases in 40 states under the CPP."

The CPP's replacement is, unsurprisingly, far more lax than its predecessor, with no specific quotas or guidelines on emissions for states to strive towards or meet. Instead, state regulators will be in charge of finding ways to improve efficiency and setting their own carbon emission standards. Basically, there is nothing forcing states to switch to cleaner energy sources or compelling them to reduce carbon emissions – and, as a result, experts expect emissions to increase. 

According to a Harvard study exploring the probable impact of the ACE, carbon dioxide emissions at the national level are expected to be 0.8 percent lower in 2030 than they would with no policy but 0.6 percent higher in 2050 than they would be with no policy.

What's more, some states will feel the effect more than others, with increases in carbon dioxide emissions of up to 8.7 percent in 18 states and DC, increases of sulfur dioxide emissions of up to 148 percent in 19 states, and increases of nitrogen oxide emissions of up to 9 percent in 20 states and DC (compared to no policy). This extra pollution could have a detrimental effect on people's health as well as the environment, resulting in 1,400 more premature deaths than the CPP it's replacing, CNN reports.

Politicians from coal-mine states like Pennsylvania and Indiana have voiced support for the ACE, the Associated Press reports, while others have announced plans to fight the new piece of legislation in the courts.

"This catastrophic rule will prop up dirty and expensive coal power plants, undercut clean and sustainable electricity, and leave New Yorkers and all other Americans to foot the bill," New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement.

"Given its clear violation of the Clean Air Act, I intend to sue the EPA over this 'Dirty Power' rule and look forward to collaborating with other states and cities in taking action to protect all Americans from the increasingly disastrous impacts of climate change."

We'll have to wait to see how this one plays out.

Regardless of any political pandering to fossil fuel lobbyists and coal-mining industrialists, it may be a losing battle. Last year, US coal consumption plummeted to its lowest levels in decades, while record numbers of plants are closing their doors as market forces swing in favor of natural gas and renewables. A Californian wind farm. Nfoto/Shutterstock

 

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