The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler, announced the Trump administration’s proposal to roll back Obama-era regulations on U.S. coal plants to slash carbon emissions.
Under the proposal, announced Dec. 13, new coal plants could emit up to 862 kg (1,900 lbs) of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of electricity, up from 635 kg (1,400 lbs) now as required by the Clean Power Plan, Reuters reported.
The proposal is a companion of sorts to a Trump administration proposal early this year to replace the Clean Power Plan regulating carbon emissions from existing coal plants with its own Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule proposal. The ACE rule does not set a specific target to reduce carbon emissions or force a shift in the electricity sector away from coal plants to natural gas and zero-carbon renewable energy, as the Clean Power Plan did. Instead, it gives states the authority to write rules regulating their power plants, and encourages utilities to invest in efficiency upgrades.
The proposal, like with the ACE rule, is seen as way to help the U.S. coal industry.
“We are rescinding unfair burdens on American energy providers and leveling the playing field so that new energy technologies can be part of America’s future,” Wheeler said at a press conference.
Wheeler argued the proposal would not boost U.S. greenhouse emissions but would actually help drive them down by encouraging U.S. investment in new energy technologies, which could then be exported.
“I’d love to see coal plants being built in China and India meet our standards,” he said.
The announcement came ahead of annual U.N. climate talks in Poland and just two weeks after the a U.S. Government report found climate change will cost the national economy hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century. That bleak picture clashes with the Trump administration’s pro-fossil-fuels agenda.
“We are not ignoring the government report,” Wheeler said. But he added “a lot of the media’s focused on is the worst-case scenario.”
The U.S. Energy Information Administration has projected that coal demand will fall this year to the lowest in 39 years, as the power industry moves further toward natural gas and renewables like solar and wind. The government lists plans for two new major coal fired power plants over the next five years, which could benefit from the EPA’s rollback. Still, it also lists plans for 77 retirements.
The National Mining Association (NMA) has shown its support for the Trump administration moves, saying in a release, “The proposed ACE rule is a welcome return to federal restraint after years of punitive overreach,” said Hal Quinn, NMA president and CEO. “This replacement rule makes it clear that we can advance the nation’s environmental protections while preserving the rightful authority of the states to manage their own unique energy infrastructure and electric grids. Reducing emissions need not come with a crushing price tag nor the threat of reduced grid reliability and resiliency. The previous administration’s policy posed a direct threat to the reliable, affordable power that is the foundation of our economy.”