Energy & Environment

Trump EPA floats possible replacement for Obama climate rule

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The Trump administration is kicking off the process to formally consider replacing former President Barack Obama’s climate change rule for power plants.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) put out a notice Monday asking the public to submit ideas for what such a replacement rule would look like.

The replacement would almost certainly be less ambitious than Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which envisioned a 32 percent cut in the power sector’s carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.


The Monday notice, known as an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking, comes more than two months after the EPA formally proposed repealing the Clean Power Plan on the basis that it exceeded the authority Congress gave the EPA under the Clean Air Act.

“Consistent with our commitment to the rule of law, we’ve already set in motion an assessment of the previous administration’s questionable legal basis in our proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan. With a clean slate, we can now move forward to provide regulatory certainty,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement.

“Today’s move ensures adequate and early opportunity for public comment from all stakeholders about next steps the agency might take to limit greenhouse gases from stationary sources, in a way that properly stays within the law, and the bounds of the authority provided to EPA by Congress.”

Pruitt at a House hearing this month committed for the first time to pursuing a replacement climate rule. He had only brought it up only as a possibility previously.

The EPA already decided, in its proposal to repeal Obama’s rule, that any replacement standards would have to apply solely to the coal- or natural gas-fired power plants themselves, such as improving the efficiency of the generators.

That restriction would make the replacement rule far less ambitious than the Clean Power Plan, which was based on the ability of plant operators to switch their power generation to less-polluting sources, like natural gas or renewables.

Industry and business groups have advocated for Pruitt to replace the climate rule, arguing that it would give businesses more certainty, particularly if environmental groups or Democratic states sue the EPA to force a rule to limit greenhouse gases from power plants.

“Our hope is that today’s request for input will begin a true collaboration between the federal government, states, and all stakeholders to develop a more durable and achievable approach to addressing carbon emissions,” Karen Harbert, president of the Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute, said in a statement.

“The new approach should lower emissions, preserve America’s energy advantage, and respect the boundaries of the Clean Air Act.”

Environmental groups, meanwhile, have argued that a weaker replacement rule would fall far short of the EPA’s responsibilities under the Clean Air Act, and they are likely to sue to stop such a rule.

“By slow-walking its legal duty to protect our climate, EPA panders to fossil fuel polluters at the expense of communities around the nation,” said Trip Van Noppen, president of Earthjustice.

“EPA’s misguided strategy not only fails to tackle the carbon pollution that is driving climate change, but also would produce 4,500 premature deaths each year from other pollutants the Clean Power Plan would cut.”

— This story was updated at 4:15 p.m.

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

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