EPA to roll back Obama-era greenhouse gas policies on coal power plants


Coal trains by Flickr user Kimon Berlin (Used under CC License)

Coal trains by Flickr user Kimon Berlin (Used under CC License)

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EPA head Scott Pruitt told miners in Kentucky on Monday that he intends to begin dismantling former President Barack Obama's signature climate-change agenda effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions from coal power plants.

Standing alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Pruitt told reporters at an event in Hazard, Ky., that, "The war against coal is over." 

Pruitt told reporters that on Tuesday, "I’ll be a signing a proposed rule to withdraw the so-called Clean Power Plan of the past administration, and thus begin the effort to withdraw that rule."

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Under Pruitt's leadership, the EPA has said that the Obama administration overstepped its legal authority by circumventing congress in attempting to implement the Clean Power Plan. The plan sets specific emissions targets for each state deemed appropriate by the EPA and makes the assumption that states will shift away from coal-powered plants in favor of natural gas, wind, and solar energy.

Obama's plan aimed to cut plant carbon emissions to 32 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2030 in 47 states in an effort to reach goals set forth by the Paris climate agreement. President Donald Trump in June said that he plans to pull the U.S. out of the Paris agreement. 

More than two dozen states challenged the directive in court, and the Supreme Court blocked the Obama-era rule from going into effect while courts reviewed those lawsuits. Priutt, in his former role as Oklahoma Attorney General, has perhaps been the plan's most outspoken opponent. Pruitt does not accept the scientific consensus on human contribution to climate change.

Trump has also called climate change a "hoax." 

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However, the Trump administration's EPA has not detailed a replacement plan for the Clean Power Plan, although agency spokeswoman Liz Bowman said that a replacement rule will be "done carefully and properly, within the confines of the law."  The EPA has to regulate greenhouse gas emissions because of a 2009 legal opinion known as the endangerment finding.

Both sides see this as a numbers game. The Trump administration alleges that not implementing the Clean Power Plan will save $33 billion, while the Obama-era EPA estimated that up to 6,600 premature deaths could be avoided by enacting it. 

The EPA's website no longer has an overview of the Clean Power Plan.

The EPA's move follows up on a promise to dial back Obama-era emissions rules made by President Donald Trump while he was campaigning in Appalachian coal country. 

 
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