Trump's easing of coal rules could kill 1,400 people per year

Audrey Hill
August 22, 2018

The EPA Tuesday morning formally unveiled the details of its new plan to devolve regulation of coal-fired power plants back to the states, one that is expected to give a boost to the coal industry and increase carbon emissions nationwide.

The Environmental Protection Agency openly admits in its proposal for new emission guidelines that the plan could lead to up 1,400 more premature deaths a year. States have three years to evaluate their power plants and submit proposals for compliance, after which the EPA has another year to review - all before any implementation begins.

The Trump Administration has argued that the EPA can't use the Clean Air Act to set emissions levels for the energy industry in general, but instead could regulate emissions at each individual source of emissions.

The Environmental Protection Agency called the regulations on coal power plants "overly prescriptive and burdensome" in the proposal to roll-back the former president's climate-change initiative.

But the political reality is that despite the real world evidence of record-hot summers, historic floods, and unprecedented wildfires, the Trump administration remains more focused on coal interests in West Virginia than the risks of global warming.

Obama's Clean Power Plan would have reduced carbon emissions dramatically, as much as 19 percent from projected levels by 2030.

The Trump administration is emphasizing "coal at all costs", said Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator when the Obama plan was developed.

The Trump administration proposal was cheered by business leaders and conservatives who said the Obama initiative illegally sought to compel more renewable power and quash coal.

"A coal plant that operates more efficiently may be called upon to run more hours, increasing the total amount of Carbon dioxide emitted overall", Lissa Lynch, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.

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It also would overhaul the triggers that prompt new permit reviews - and potentially expensive new pollution controls - that have been criticized as onerous by owners of power plants, refineries and other industrial sites.

Since 2010, power plant owners have either retired or announced plans to retire 630 coal-fired facilities in 43 states - almost 40 per cent of the USA coal fleet, according to data by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a trade group representing utilities such as Southern Co. and producers such as Peabody Energy Corp. His plan restricted greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.

"This is another desperate attempt by the Trump Administration to prop up the dirty and obsolete coal industry, but it won't work", he continued.

In a statement, Acting EPA 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".

Morrisey's office on Tuesday seized on the Trump administration's announcement, calling it a "critical step" to reverse the impact Obama administration regulations had on the coal industry.

The electric-car axiom that "the dirtiest your electric vehicle will ever be is the day you buy it", because power plants keep getting cleaner may no longer be true.

Acting EPA chief Andrew Wheeler praised the decision. More CO2 emissions means more of the other harmful stuff.

Trump has vowed to end what Republicans call a "war on coal" waged by Obama. "The Clean Power Plan would have resulted in stranded assets and stranded debt, significantly increasing electricity costs for many consumers", Matheson said by email.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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