In another policy move that is sure to 'trigger' liberals and climate-change advocates, the New York Times is reporting that EPA Chief Scott Pruitt will on Tuesday announce that the agency is taking formal steps to repeal an Obama-era policy meant to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
Pruitt justified dismantling the policy – known as the Clean Power Plan – by arguing that his predecessors had departed from regulatory norms in crafting the plan, which was finalized in 2015 and would have pushed states to move away from coal – an industry that President Trump has championed - in favor of sources of electricity that produce fewer carbon emissions.
“The war on coal is over,” Mr. Pruitt told the Times.
“Tomorrow in Washington D.C., I will be signing a proposed rule to roll back the Clean Power Plan. No better place to make that announcement than Hazard, Kentucky.”
The repeal proposal will be filed in the Federal Register Tuesday, fulfilling a promise that President Trump made to dismantle his predecessors’ efforts to curb fossil fuel emmissions.
Eliminating the CPP will make it effectively impossible for the US to meet its obligations under the Paris climate agreement. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the international accord earlier this year, prompting some US states and cities to launch their own efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Trump had said that he’d be opening to renegotiating America’s obligations under the agreement, an offer that was immediately shot down by other signatories.
A leaked draft of the repeal proposal claims the US will save $33 billion after jettisoning the regulations, rejecting the purported health benefits that the Obama Administration said would result from further restrictions on fossil fuels. When the plan was unveiled in 2015, it was expected to cut emmissions by 32% by 2030 compared with 2005 levels.
However, many states are already shifting away from coal for economic reasons like lower costs associated with using natural gas.
In a development that echos decisions by federal judges to oppose the Trump administration’s first two travel ban proposals, environmental groups and several states plan to challenge the repeal proposal in federal courts, arguing against repealing the Obama-era policy on scientific and economic grounds.
Industry groups back the decision, but have said they’d be open to replacing the Clean Power Plan with more modest power plant regulations in part to help circumvent a court challenge.
The EPA is still required to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions because of a 2009 legal opinion known as the endangerment finding.
“We have always believed that there is a better way to approach geenhosue gas emmissions reductions,” Karen A Harbert, the president of the Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institut, said in a statement.
“We welcome the opportunity for business to be at the table with the EPA and other stakeholders to develop an approach that lowers emissions, preserves America’s energy advantage, and respects the boundaries of the Clean Air Act.
How will the Trump administration roll back the Clean Power Plan? Pruitt is proposing that the CPP be repealed because it was predicated on the view that states could lower emissions at power plants by taking external actions like replacing coal plants with wind farms elsewhere. Industry groups have challenged this move by arguing that the EPA can only enforce cleanup regulations that can be undertaken by individual plants. Pruitt is essentially repurposing this argument to throw out the plan.
How will the plan impact emissions? Well, it’s unclear. One study showed that as many as 21 states – including Texas, West Virginia and Georgia – would’ve needed to accelerate coal-plant closures to comply with the new rules. But many other states are actually closing coal plants more quickly than the regulations would require.
The Times notes that, while the CPP would’ve presumably prevented a resurgence in coal use in the event that natural gas prices soar, under current market conditions, coal plants will probably continue to close amid a broader shift toward renewables and natural gas.
Pruitt’s formal proposal to repeal the CPP will now go through a public comment period before being finalized, which could take months. There’s also expected to be a lot of time-consuming litigation as Democratic-leaning states challenge Pruitt in court.
But even challenger states are moving away from coal and toward renewables. We now wait for states’ attorneys general to announce legal challenges to Pruitt’s decision, which will probably begin after Pruitt formally proposes killing the rule on Tuesday. The decision to roll back the CPP follows an executive order President Trump signed in March ordering federal agencies to review energy industry regulations, and throw out any that are deemed overly restrictive.