Energy & Environment

EPA takes next step toward replacing Obama-era climate rule

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The Trump administration is taking a big step forward in its effort to replace the Obama administration’s climate change rule for power plants with a more industry-friendly alternative.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that on Monday it sent a proposed rule to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review.

{mosads}The OMB review, an internal process that checks for compliance with various laws and administration priorities, is the final step before the rule can be released publicly and made available for public comment.

The EPA hasn’t revealed the contents of the proposal. The Trump administration in December requested public input on ideas for a replacement.

The rule would replace the Clean Power Plan, the main pillar of former President Obama’s climate change agenda that sought a 32 percent cut in carbon emissions from the country’s power sector by 2030. States were allowed to decide how best to accomplish that goal.

The Obama rule was put on hold by the Supreme Court in 2016 as a result of litigation led in part by then-Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. Pruitt went on to become EPA administrator before resigning last week under the cloud of numerous scandals.

Pruitt and President Trump prioritized repealing the Clean Power Plan, and Pruitt formally proposed undoing it last year, an action that has not yet been made final.

Sources familiar with the EPA’s deliberations say the agency wants to write a regulation that focuses almost exclusively on making coal-fired power plants more efficient. That would result in minimal reductions in carbon emissions, and environmentalists say emissions could in turn increase since coal plants would be cheaper to operate.

While Pruitt initially did not want to replace the Clean Power Plan, industry leaders pushed him in that direction, arguing that doing so would reduce the risk of climate-change lawsuits against companies, as well as future lawsuits against the EPA for not regulating greenhouse gases.

Both Pruitt and current acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler have expressed skepticism of the scientific consensus that the climate is changing and that human activity is the primary cause.

Tags Climate change Donald Trump Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt
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