The Trump administration is rolling back rules to curb greenhouse gas emissions in the United States as scientists continue to warn countries to rapidly cut emissions to prevent the most drastic effects of climate change.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Wednesday it had finalized rules to replace the Clean Power Plan, former President Barack Obama’s initiative to cut global warming emissions from coal plants.
The new Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule gives America’s 50 states three years to develop their own emissions reduction plans by encouraging coal plants to improve their efficiency.
By contrast, the Clean Power Plan was designed to slash power plant carbon emissions by more than one-third from 2005 levels by 2030 by pushing utilities to replace coal with cleaner fuels like natural gas, solar and wind.
The Obama-era plan was never enacted, however, because of lawsuits filed by Republican states and hundreds of companies. The Supreme Court halted its enactment in February 2016.
“States will be given the flexibility to design a plan that best suits their citizens environmental and energy needs, according to a summary of the new rules,” according to a summary of the ruling.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said at a Washington news conference, “Our ACE rule will incentivize new technology which will ensure coal plants will be part of a cleaner future.”
But environmentalists, many Democratic lawmakers and some state attorneys general have labeled the new rules the “Dirty Power Plan,” maintaining they will lead to increases in carbon emissions and other pollutants over the next few decades.
“At a time when Americans are urging us to take meaningful climate action and reduce our carbon footprint, today’s Dirty Power Plan is a failure of vision and leadership,” said Joe Goffman, executive director of Harvard University’s Environmental & Energy Law Program.
Even the EPA’s own regulatory analysis last year estimated Trump’s ACE rule would kill an additional 300 to 1,500 people each year by 2030 because of more air pollution from the U.S. power grid.
Trump has, nevertheless, dismissed scientific warnings on climate change, including a report this year from scientists at more than a dozen federal agencies noting that global warming from fossil fuels “presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life.”
Trump promised early in his presidency to kill the Clean Power Plan as part of an effort to revive the ailing coal industry, contending it exceeded the federal government’s authority.
Wednesday’s announcement to overturn Obama-era climate rules is part of a broader Trump administration effort to roll back “a multitude of health, safety environmental and consumer protections at the behest of corporate interests,” the non-profit consumer rights advocacy group Public Citizen concluded in a report released in May.
The report said shortly after Trump took office in early 2017, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) sent the Trump administration a list of 132 regulations that “concerned” members and detailed their “preferred course of action to address its concerns on each of the regulations.”
The report concluded that “Regulatory agencies have granted or are working on granting 85 percent of the wishes related to rulemakings on a list of deregulatory demands submitted” by NAM.
The new rule is expected to take effect within 30 days.