The Trump administration has proposed a replacement for an Obama-era rule targeting power plant pollution, offering a new rule that would provide more leeway to the states to curb carbon emissions.
The proposed rule was rolled out Tuesday morning and aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants, but environmental groups say the proposal won’t have that desired effect.
In a press release announcing the proposed rule, the Environmental Protection Agency said the Affordable Clean Energy Rule “empowers states, promotes energy independence, and facilitates economic growth and job creation.”
“The ACE Rule would restore the rule of law and empower states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide modern, reliable, and affordable energy for all Americans,” EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a release.
The rule would replace the Clean Power Plan, the Obama EPA rule that would have offered stricter regulations on power plants. The Supreme Court stayed the CPP, and the Trump administration quickly acted to begin the process of replacing the rule. The ACE Rule, EPA argues, does a better job of sticking to congressional intent than did the CPP.
“We think we’re on very firm legal ground,” Bill Wehrum, EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, told reporters. “In fact, we think we’re on much firmer legal ground than the CPP was.”
The ACE Rule would develop a federal framework for emission reduction, then give states three years to submit a plan for how that emission reduction would be achieved within their borders. Critics of the CPP were quick to praise the ACE Rule, specifically the role it allocates to the states.
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“The Obama-era regulation wasn’t just bad policy, it was illegal,” Sen. John Barrasso, the Wyoming Republican who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement. “I am glad the Trump administration is focused on getting this punishing rule off the books. Washington must work with Wyoming, and other states, in this process.”
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jim Matheson said the proposed rule “appears to provide electric cooperatives with a more achievable plan that adheres to EPA’s historic approach to using the Clean Air Act.”
“It is imperative that EPA’s rules recognize the investment that cooperative members have made in power plants and that there is a prudent path forward for 42 million consumers to benefit from those investments,” he added.
While the rule is a welcome respite from the potential regulatory burden that would have befallen power plants, it faces substantial opposition from the environmental community.
Rhea Sue, president of the National Resources Defense Council, said the proposed rule is “riddled with gimmicks and giveaways.
“It would mean more climate-changing pollution from power plants,” she said. “That’s a recipe for climate disaster, and we’ll fight this dangerous retreat with every tool available.”
An analysis first reported by the New York Times cites EPA documents showing the ACE Rule could lead to increased carbon emissions and up to 1,400 premature deaths annually. Wehrum said while the proposed rule may be attacked for its lack of action on a number of matters the CPP addressed, he said it is defensible within the parameters of the Clean Air Act.
“However much people may want EPA to regulate power grids, however much people may want EPA to demand that new renewable energy be built instead of fossil fuel plants, we do not have that authority under this part of the act,” he said. “It was ephemeral and a misapplication of the Clean Air Act under the Clean Power Plan to assert agency authority in those areas.”
The proposed rule will be subject to a 60-day comment period that begins once officially published in the Federal Register. EPA also plans to hold a public hearing on a date to be announced later.
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