Despite the increasingly urgent warnings of scientists, the Trump administration on Wednesday eased restrictions on coal-fired power plants in a move the administration predicted would revitalize the nation’s coal industry.
Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler signed a measure that gives states more leeway in deciding whether to require coal-fired plants to make limited efficiency upgrades. The change scraps one of President Barack Obama’s key initiatives to reduce fossil fuel emissions.
Officials in New York said immediately said the state would go to court to challenge the action.
The EPA rollback follows pledges by candidate and then President Donald Trump to rescue the U.S. coal industry, an industry that suffered near-record numbers of plant closings in 2018 in the face of competition from cheaper natural gas and renewables.
The measure signed last Wednesday is the latest and one of the largest environmental regulatory rollbacks by the Trump administration.
The Associated Press reported the new measure came despite scientists’ cautions that the world must cut fossil fuel emissions to stave off the worst of global warming and the EPAs own analysis that the new rule would result in the deaths of an extra 300 to 1,500 people annually by 2030 compared to the never fully enacted Clean Power Plan, resulting from additional air pollution from the power grid.
“Americans want reliable energy that they can afford,” Wheeler said at the signing ceremony, adding there’s no denying “fossil fuels will continue to be an important part of the mix.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi termed the new regulation a “dirty power scam” and “a stunning giveaway to big polluters. She called climate change “the existential threat of our time” and charged the Trump administration was ignoring scientific studies and yielding to special interests.
Obama’s 2015 Clean Power Plan is currently stayed by the Supreme Court while challenges from more than two dozen states that contend it exceeded authority under the federal Clean Air Act are decided. Environmental advocates and Obama-era EPA officials involved in drafting the plan repealed Wednesday said the Trump administration’s replacement rule will do little to cut climate-damaging emissions from coal-fired power plants at a time when polls show a growing number of Americans are paying attention to global warming.
Burning fossil fuels for electricity, transportation and heat is the main human source of heat-trapping carbon emissions.
Trump has rejected scientific warnings on climate change, including a sobering report this year from scientists at more than a dozen federal agencies noting that global warming from fossil fuels “present growing challenges to human health and quality of life.” Administration officials argue climate science is imperfect, and there is no clear evidence climate change would have as great an impact as forecast.
The Trump administration is also proposing to roll back an Obama-era mileage rule requiring tougher mileage standards for cars and light trucks, despite promises from environmental groups of still more court challenges.
Despite Trump’s claims that the nation’s air is the cleanest it’s ever been, an Associated Press analysis of federal data found there were 15% more days with unhealthful air in 2018 and 2017 than on average from 2013 through 2016, the four years when America had its least number of those days since 1980.
It’s time that we become far more concerned about the climate legacy that we are leaving for future generations.