Energy & Environment

EPA to repeal landmark Obama climate rule


The Trump administration on Tuesday will formally propose repealing Barack Obama’s landmark climate change rule for power plants, a key part of the U.S. commitment to reduce emissions under the Paris accord.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt told a Kentucky audience on Monday that he will sign paperwork on Tuesday to repeal the rule, which he argued exceeded the previous administration’s authority and treated coal communities unfairly.

“The Clean Power Plan, it wasn’t about regulating to make things regular,” Pruitt said Monday at an event with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), to raucous applause. “It was truly about regulating to pick winners and losers.”

{mosads}Pruitt gave his remarks at a Hazard, Ky., mining and construction equipment business, in the heart of Eastern Kentucky’s hard-hit coal country.

The Obama rule was expected to significantly hurt the coal industry since coal-fired power plants are the biggest carbon emitters. But Pruitt’s announcement was also a rebuke of what he and Republicans see as Obama’s “war on coal.” He and other Republicans are that numerous regulations that have hurt the coal industry, which was already reeling from competition from cheap natural gas.

The EPA’s announcement is the first major step toward fulfilling a key campaign promise Trump made to repeal the climate rule that he’s called “stupid” and “job-killing.”

Environmentalist and Democrats have pledged to pull out all the steps to save the Clean Power Plan, which they say is the most significant U.S. policy to reduce carbon emissions that has ever been put into place.

The rule was the centerpiece of Obama’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and show the rest of the world that the U.S., a top polluter, is committed to climate action. It aims to cut emissions from the electricity sector by 32 percent by 2030.

Trump’s EPA argues that the agency overstepped, arguing it can only regulate pollution from individual plants and not sector-wide. 

“It’s Congress that passes legislation that gives us direction, that gives us our orders as far as how we administer the statute,” Pruitt said Monday. “The last administration simply made it up.”

The EPA will also argue that the Obama policy will prove as little as $500 million in economic benefits through 2030 compared to the $20 billion claimed by the previous administration — at a cost to the U.S. economy of $55.5 billion.

The EPA will open the door to replacing the rule with a weaker, more industry-friendly standard to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, though it did not promise to pursue a new regulation. 

The fossil fuel industry and its Republican allies have waged a battle to repeal the Clean Power Plan, securing a key victory early last year when the Supreme Court halted implementation of the rule while lawsuits against it moved forward. 

The EPA’s new argument against the regulation tracks closely with the one put forward by those foes — including Pruitt, who was formerly Oklahoma’s Attorney General — though a federal court never ruled on the validity of that position. 

Trump and his administration have moved aggressively to undo President Obama’s climate change work, putting on hold or repealing dozens of regulations and announcing their intention to leave the international Paris climate deal. 

The Clean Power Plan was the cornerstone of the U.S.’s commitment to that climate pledge. But Trump in March signed an executive order calling on the EPA to repeal the regulation, saying he was “putting an end to the war on coal,” a term used by opponents of the Obama administration’s efforts to cut down on the use of fossil fuels. 

Trump said then that repealing the rule is “an historic step to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion and to cancel job-killing regulations.”

Myron Ebell, head of the energy and environment program at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, cheered the repeal as a step toward getting rid of the role completely.

“If it had gone into effect, the ‘Clean Power’ Plan rule to limit greenhouse gas emissions from coal and natural gas power plants would have been one of the most expensive regulations ever imposed, causing electric rates for consumers to go up and threatening the reliability of the electric grid,” he said in a statement.

But environmentalists have vowed to protect the regulation, arguing the economic and health benefits of a cleaner electricity sector will outweigh any effort to stick to polluting fuels like coal. 

Obama’s EPA projected that the rule would limit not only carbon dioxide emissions, but dramatically reduce other pollutants like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides as well. 

The department said the rule would create a net economic benefit of $26 billion to $45 billion, and reduce up to 3,600 pollution-related premature deaths every year.

The rule’s supporters say it’s not only good policy, but they also contend the EPA has a legal responsibility to regulate climate change-causing emissions of greenhouse gases.

“If Administrator Pruitt plans to repeal the Clean Power Plan, that would be a complete abdication of EPA’s legal responsibility to protect our children’s lungs from dangerous smokestack pollution and their homes from climate-destabilizing extreme weather,” Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp said last week when details of the repeal plan came out. 

Gina McCarthy, the EPA administrator under Obama who formalized and released the Clean Power Plan, said the Trump administration “has no intention of following the law.” 

She added, “They are denying it just as they are denying the science. They’re using stall tactics to defer action, ignoring the courts and the demands of the American people.”


Tags Barack Obama Clean Power Plan Climate change Coal Environmental Protection Agency Gina McCarthy Mitch McConnell Scott Pruitt
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