After wiping out plans to continue boosting fuel economy standards earlier this month, the EPA on Tuesday proposed rolling back emissions standards on electric power plants.

The new proposed rule, which the EPA calls the "Affordable Clean Energy" rule, would eliminate Obama-era standards that would have required power plants to reduce carbon emissions either by converting from coal to cleaner sources of energy or by building carbon-capture technologies.

The new proposal was first revealed this morning by the AP and detailed by the Washington Post.

EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler

EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler

The Affordable Clean Energy rule would formally overturn President Obama's signature Clean Power Plan, although that plan was never implemented after the Supreme Court issued a stay in response to petitions from state attorneys general and from power providers. Instead, it would leave regulatory authority for power-plant emissions to the states.

The new rule could reduce the emissions advantages of electric cars by allowing more "dirty" power plants to provide the energy that electric-car drivers use to recharge.

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

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Electric utilities have been steadily retiring coal plants for economic reasons despite the stay of the Clean Power Plan, as the cost of renewables and natural gas drop. That trend is likely to continue, but it may happen at a slower rate under the new plan, because the cost of using coal may not go up as anticipated.

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. Today’s proposal provides the states and regulated community the certainty they need to continue environmental progress while fulfilling President Trump’s goal of energy dominance.”

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Environmental groups were quick to criticize the move.

The Sierra Club's senior campaign representative in Pennsylvania, Patrick Grenter, released a statement saying, "The proposed rollback of life-saving clean air and climate safeguards is unacceptable and exposes Wheeler’s EPA as a puppet of the very coal executives who used to sign his paychecks and want to pollute with impunity.

"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.
"The U.S. will continue to move away from dirty, polluting fossil fuels and confront the climate crisis head on, with or without the Trump Administration."