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EPA Proposes Looser Coal Plant Rules

The Trump Administration is proposing to roll back Obama-era pollution regulations on coal power plants in an effort to pave the way for construction of new coal-fired power plants.

Andrew Wheeler

Environmental Protection Agency Acting Director Andrew Wheeler announced Thursday in an event that was live-streamed on YouTube the proposal to revise the New Source Performance Standards for greenhouse gas emissions from new, modified and rebuilt fossil fuel-fired power plants. The action would change how the EPA, under the Clean Air Act, determines the best system of emission reduction for these plants, replacing the 2015 determination that partial carbon capture and storage, or CCS, technology was best for new coal plants.

The EPA said CCS technology was “unproven” and characterized it as a way to discourage development of new coal power plants.

“Consistent with President Trump’s executive order promoting energy independence, EPA’s proposal would rescind excessive burdens on America’s energy providers and level the playing field so that new energy technologies can be a part of America’s future,” Wheeler said. “By replacing onerous regulations with high, yet achievable, standards, we can continue America’s historic energy production, keep energy prices affordable, and encourage new investments in cutting-edge technology that can then be exported around the world.”

But the agency’s own studies show construction of new coal plants appears unlikely. According to the EPA’s economic impact analysis for the proposal, “… even under the emissions limits included in this proposal, new fossil fuel-fired capacity constructed through 2026 and the years following is expected to be natural gas capacity.”

The live stream was cut short just as reporters present were allowed to ask questions.

The Sierra Club described the move as “another bid to help (Wheeler’s) former employers in the coal industry.”

The proposal, the organization said, will have little effect on the “declining coal industry” because of public pressure for climate action, competition from renewable energy sources such as solar and wind and the energy sector’s shift away from coal.

“Today’s decision by former coal lobbyist and acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is as tone deaf as it is irresponsible,” said Mary Anne Hitt, Senior Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “No new coal plants are being planned or built in the United States because coal is too dirty and too expensive.”

The Trump administration is seeking to prop up a “false narrative about reviving coal at the expense of science, public safety, and reality,” she said.

The EPA will accept comments on the proposed rule for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

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The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.