Last Wednesday, the EPA finalized plans for its latest rollback of a landmark Obama-era climate policy. It currently looks to replace it with a rule protecting the declining coal industry.
Former President Barack Obama’s rule, the Clean Power Plan (CPP), was the U.S. government’s only policy aimed at directly curtailing pollution caused by carbon-fueled plants. Research suggests President Donald Trump’s new plan would not only harm the environment, but also create major health risks.
Ramifications of Trump’s ACE Rule, According to the EPA
According to the EPA, if the CPP were to be implemented, it would prevent 3,600 premature deaths annually. Additionally, it could prevent over 1,700 heart attacks and 90,000 asthma attacks. Trump’s plan, in comparison, could lead to 460 to 1,400 more premature deaths annually and cause exacerbated cases of diseases like asthma.
The Trump administration’s Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule will significantly loosen regulations imposed on coal-fueled power plants. The ACE rule would grant states more flexibility in deciding whether to require limited efficiency upgrades. The new rule, signed by EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, will allow power plants to operate without adhering to strict national regulation.
“We are gathered here today because the American public elected a president with a better approach,” Wheeler said. “One of the president’s first acts in office was to issue an executive order to promote energy independence. In it, he instructed EPA to rescind, replace, or revise the Clean Power Plan.”
Wheeler also criticized the CPP by saying the plan would create an economic burden on low- and middle-income Americans. Ultimately, the regulation was blocked by the Supreme Court after facing legal opposition from 28 states and hundreds of companies.
Differences Between the CPP and ACE
Through the CPP, Obama pushed for the reconstruction of power grids to lessen the country’s reliance on coal and fossil fuels for energy. He also called for a fixed national emissions limit. The plan aimed to slash U.S. power sector emissions up to 32% below 2005 levels by 2030.
While the ACE rule still complies with the EPA’s legal obligation to reduce carbon emissions, it does so on a much smaller scale. Under this plan, the United States would only cut 0.7-1.5% of emissions by 2030.
“The Trump plan is founded upon a warped reinterpretation of the Clean Air Act that allows states to decide whether or not to regulate one of the largest sources of carbon emissions in our country,” Democrat Senator Tom Carper of Delaware said about what he calls a “dirty power plan.”
Reactions to Trump’s ACE Rule
It’s likely Trump will face the same legal turmoil as his predecessor while trying to impose the ACE rule. Already, attorney generals from California, Oregon, Washington State, Iowa, Colorado, and New York have announced plans to sue the U.S. government to halt the rule. Environmental groups will likely join the legal battle against the new rule too.
However, one group largely backing this new plan is perhaps obvious: coal miners. Throughout Trump’s campaign, he has vocalized his support for the revitalization of the coal industry.
Trump’s Advocacy for the Coal Industry
While on the campaign trail in 2016 amidst “Trump Digs Coal” signs, the president repeated at rallies, “We are putting our great coal miners back to work. I’m coal’s last shot.” Trump has made a point to advocate against the “war on coal,” and in agreement with this belief, one of Trump’s first moves as president was the cessation of the CPP.
Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist himself, emphasized the benefits the ACE rule will have on rural communities dependent on the coal industry for employment.
“I’m glad that the current leadership here at the EPA understands that we can have smart environmental regulations and protect coal jobs and our economy at the same time,” Republican Representative Bill Johnson of Ohio said in support of Trump’s new rule.
Despite Trump’s advocacy for the coal industry, far more coal-fueled power plants closed down than in Obama’s first term. As found by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, national coal consumption has plummeted 39% to the lowest level it has seen in 40 years. Competition from other energy sources, including natural gas and wind energy, explains this drop.
Conclusions on EPA Rollbacks
So while it’s clear that the coal industry is declining, Trump’s new plan may stall its downfall. The ACE rule displays the stark contrast between Obama and Trump’s approach to environmental regulation. This new rule further shows in the battle for environmental protection, Trump will continue to side with big coal.