The Environmental Protection Agency, failing in their sole duty to protect the environment, has moved ahead with its plans to replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, as EPA Administrator and former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler signed the final so-called “Affordable Clean Energy” rule into effect today.
The new rule replaces the Clean Power Plan’s goal for an industry-wide reduction of emissions with a plan to “regulate the industry on a plant-by-plant basis,” as seen in a new summary reviewed by The Wall Street Journal which “closely parallels” the proposal the EPA set forth last year.
That proposal focused on reducing emissions from existing plants in a way that would allow those plants to keep operating with technological upgrades. As an overview of the EPA’s proposal noted:
EPA’s analysis finds that coal-fired power plants can reduce CO2 emissions by making on-site efficiency upgrades, or “heat rate improvements.”
The new rule will let states create their own plans to cut emissions by improving the efficiency of coal-fired plants. From Reuters:
“Our ACE rule will incentivize new technology which will ensure coal plants will be part of a cleaner future,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said at an event at agency headquarters attended by coal state lawmakers, White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and a dozen coal miners in uniform.
Last month, it was revealed the EPA was planning to adopt new modeling that would “drastically lower” premature death estimates from air pollution as it looked to move forward with the Affordable Clean Energy rule. The model would not change the number of deaths from coal, it would merely change the government’s calculations to ignore some of them so the numbers look better.
The Clean Power Plan, which sought to reduce power plant emissions 32% below 2005 levels by 2030, never went into effect, as it was stayed by the Supreme Court in 2016. States fought the plan — perhaps other states will do the same with this new rule, as we could see a new series of court battles. As Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey and Green New Deal co-sponsor Ed Markey tweeted:
This new rule is nothing more than corporate welfare for the coal industry. Former coal lobbyist and now EPA Admin. Wheeler doesn’t understand that it is the EPA’s job to protect public health and the environment, not the coal industry.https://t.co/wKqHxmsEgj
— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) June 19, 2019
What a disaster. As the Washington Post notes, the new rule “demands much smaller carbon dioxide reductions than the industry is already on track to achieve, even without federal regulation.”
A few months ago, the American Lung Association identified these EPA efforts as a “key threat” to worsening air pollution in the country, and now the rule is here.
And for all the damage that can come of this, the rule won’t even do what it’s designed to do — save coal. Renewable energy recently passed coal for the first time in electricity generation in the US, and it’s also done the same in total capacity, with that gap set to widen drastically in the coming years.
Renewables are now the cheapest energy option across most of the world, and another recent study found that in three-fourths of cases, it’s now cheaper to build new wind and solar plants in the US than it is to continue to run existing coal plants.
President Trump couldn’t even convince the Tennessee Valley Authority to keep two coal plants open this February, as a TVA executive said, “It is not about coal. This decision is about economics.” The TVA later revealed a plan to deemphasize coal in favor of solar power. Even the Kentucky coal mining museum went solar.
With the EPA’s “Affordable Clean Energy” rule now out in the open, it wouldn’t surprise us to see the agency’s final fuel economy rollback plan introduced soon.
One thing is for certain: whoever leads the next administration must look to roll back many of these Trump-era rules from day one.
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