EPA: No new coal plants likely to be built despite relaxed rule

The Trump administration is forecasting that no new coal-fired power plants will be built in the United States, despite a new regulatory rollback aimed at making such plants easier to build.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed Thursday to increase the allowable carbon dioxide emissions from newly built power plants to 1,900 pounds per megawatt-hour produced, from the 1,400 pounds the Obama administration had set for the climate change pollutant.

But at multiple points in the proposal and in supporting materials, EPA officials say their forecasting doesn’t predict any new plants will come online in the United States, with or without the relaxed rule.

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“Power sector modeling does not predict the construction of any new coal-fired EGUs,” a footnote in the proposal reads, using the abbreviation for electric generating unit.

“Therefore, based on modeled impacts, any [greenhouse gas] requirements for new coal-fired EGUs would have no significant costs or benefits,” the agency goes onto say, explaining its rationale for not doing a substantial cost-benefit analysis for the proposal.

“The modeling of the electricity sector EPA performed for this rule using the Integrated Planning Model (IPM) projects that, even under the emissions limits included in this proposal, new fossil fuel-fired capacity constructed through 2026 and the years following is expected to be natural gas capacity,” the agency says in an economic impact analysis released with the proposed rule.

Greenhouse gas regulation has just been one of many threats against coal in recent years. Its main enemy has been competition from cheap natural gas and renewable energy, as well as other environmental regulations that are still in place.

Nonetheless, the EPA is framing its proposal as one to undo an Obama administration attempt to snuff out new coal plants.

“The previous administration sought to discourage new coal developments by requiring the use of unproven carbon capture and storage technologies that turned out to be economically prohibitive and limited geographically,” the agency said in a statement.

The EPA’s modeling contrasts sharply with President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE’s promises to revive the coal industry after years of decline.

“The coal industry is back,” Trump declared in August. He said earlier this year that his administration “ended the war on beautiful, clean coal.”

Coal industry boosters cheered the rollback as good news for the future of coal.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Graham: Senate trial 'must expose the whistleblower' Graham says Schiff should be a witness in Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-Ky.) said the Trump administration is targeting “another regulation that would have made it nearly impossible to build any new plants in the future. This is a crucial step toward undoing the damage and putting coal back on a level playing field.”

The National Mining Association said the rule provides “a path forward” for coal in the United States.

“Protecting affordable, reliable power, while also improving the environmental performance of the nation’s electric grid is a reasonable and achievable goal and one that needs advanced coal technologies in the mix,” it said.

The Energy Information Administration reported earlier this week that coal consumption in the United States is on track this year to fall to its lowest point in nearly 40 years.