Energy & Environment

EPA formally moves to repeal major Obama power plant rule

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The Trump administration formally proposed to scrap the Obama administration’s signature climate change rule for power plants.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt signed the notice Tuesday, arguing that former President Barack Obama’s 2015 rule, dubbed the Clean Power Plan, exceeds the agency’s authority under the Clean Air Act.

He previewed the action Monday at a coal equipment business in Kentucky, calling it the end of the “war on coal.”

The action formally starts work on a top campaign promise from President Trump, delivering a win to fossil fuel companies, business groups and Republicans — including Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general — who fought the climate plan from the start.

{mosads}The move begins to tear down the main pillar of Obama’s second-term climate change agenda, where he sought to use executive authority to fight climate change after Congress declined to pass cap-and-trade legislation.

Trump in June said he would pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, pulling back another part of Obama’s climate work. The Clean Power Plan was the centerpiece of America’s commitment to the Paris deal.

“The Obama administration pushed the bounds of their authority so far with the CPP that the Supreme Court issued a historic stay of the rule, preventing its devastating effects to be imposed on the American people while the rule is being challenged in court,” Pruitt said in a statement.

“We are committed to righting the wrongs of the Obama administration by cleaning the regulatory slate. Any replacement rule will be done carefully, properly, and with humility, by listening to all those affected by the rule.”

Environmentalists and Democrats have pledged to fight the rollback, and at least two Democratic state attorneys general have promised to sue the EPA to preserve the rule.

Even without the regulation, the power sector has been reducing its emissions for years, thanks largely to the adoption of cheap natural gas and renewable power. Many states were on track to meet their goals under the rule without additional policies.

But the climate rule aims to speed up that transition, envisioning a 32 percent cut to emissions from the nation’s power sector, with each state assigned its own goal based on its power mix. The coal sector was forecast to take a major hit from the rule’s implementation.

The rule has been on hold since February 2016, when the Supreme Court put an unprecedented halt on it while litigation brought by Republican states and industry groups proceeded.

Pruitt said that the EPA may work on a replacement carbon rule for power plants that would be weaker and more industry-friendly. That would answer a top request from industry, which fears that without a rule, they and the EPA would be exposed to litigation.

But the EPA did not commit to a replacement, only leaving the door open to the possibility.

Opposition from Pruitt and his allies centers both on the law and on the cost to consumers. In the Tuesday notice, the EPA contends that the rule would cost $33 billion annually. That’s a stark change from the Obama administration’s estimate that the rule would bring about $30 billion a year in benefits, largely from reductions in other pollutants from coal-fired power plants like nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

“The Clean Power Plan was unreasonable and unlawful. It would have hurt energy workers in Wyoming and harmed the state’s economy. I look forward to working with Administrator Pruitt as he pursues policies that protect our environment and allow America’s economy to grow,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement.

Democrats and environmentalists slammed the Trump administration for its repeal plan and promised to fight to save the climate rule.

“As the Supreme Court has affirmed three times, the Clean Air Act compels the president to curb the greenhouse gas pollution driving climate change,” said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.”

“We, and millions of Americans, will fight in every way to ensure the president acts in our best interests, not in the interests of polluters’ profits. That’s a promise we aim to keep.”


Democratic Attorneys General, including New York’s Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts’ Maura Healey, promised to sue Trump as soon as the repeal is made final.

“I am proud to lead the coalition of states and localities defending the Clean Power Plan in federal court. If and when the Trump administration finalizes this repeal, I will sue to protect New Yorkers’ and put a stop to the Trump administration’s irresponsible and illegal efforts to turn back the clock on public health,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

Within days, the EPA’s repeal notice will be published in the Federal Register, kicking off a 60-day period when the agency will take public comments.

The agency then will review the comments before publishing a final repeal rule. At that point, opponents can sue.

— Devin Henry contributed to this story, which was updated at 1:21 p.m.

Tags Barack Obama Clean Power Plan Climate change Environmental Protection Agency John Barrasso Scott Pruitt

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