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The EPA Guts the Clean Power Plan

Trump's EPA guts Clean Power Plan

Throwing regulations out the window is a hallmark of the Trump administration. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its new rule to replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. Called the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, it allows states to decide if and how to limit pollution from power plants and would give incentives to companies to keep old coal plants operating instead of replacing them with cleaner energy projects.

The Clean Power Plan is the nation’s first carbon standard for power plants. The EPA describes it as “overly prescriptive and burdensome” and replaces with a plan that “empowers states, promotes energy independence, and facilitates economic growth and job creation.”

The high costs of repealing the Clean Power Plan

Fossil-fuel power plants are the biggest stationary source of greenhouse emissions in the U.S.

Power plants emit pollutants that cause health problems such as asthma. The EPA’s own analysis found that Trump’s energy plan would likely cause up to 1,400 premature deaths a year by the year 2030.

Despite the EPA’s analysis, the federal agency’s acting administrator Andrew Wheeler said 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.” He added that it allows states “to continue environmental progress while fulfilling President Trump’s goal of energy dominance.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists sent a letter to Wheeler describing why the ACE rule is a bad idea. They characterize the EPA as being “desperate to repeal a rule its new leaders do not like, and willing to deploy any accounting tricks it can to stack the numbers in its favor.”

Repealing the Clean Power Plan would cause greenhouse gas emissions to increase. Annual carbon emissions would increase by three percent in 2025 and four percent in 2030. Sulfur dioxide levels would increase by four to five percent in 2025 and five to six percent increase in 2030. Nitrous oxide emissions would increase by two to three percent by 2025 and four to six percent in 2035. Mercury emissions would increase by two to three percent in 2025 and four to five percent in 2030.

The goal of the Clean Power plan was to reduce emissions from power plants by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. In addition to environmental and health benefits, EPA’s analysis found that the Clean Power Plan would add billions of dollars in net benefits every year, estimated to be between $26 to $45 billion in 2030.

Environmental groups oppose the Affordable Clean Energy rule

Environmental groups are opposing the Trump administration’s alternative to the Clean Power Plan. Vera Pardee, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, said that Trump is “doubling down on our dirtiest power sources and it’s going to send polar bears, ice seals, and other wildlife over the edge of extinction.” She points out that it “won’t survive in court,” like most of his environmental rollbacks.

The onus of environmental leadership now passes to the states, “in light of this complete abdication of duty from the federal government,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch.

David Smedick, Campaign and Policy Director at the Sierra Club Maryland Chapter agrees that states need to lead where the federal government is failing. “States like Maryland need to step up their game and provide bold leadership that protects families and vulnerable communities,” he said.


Image credit: Robin Sommer on Unsplash

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