Trump Ditches Obama Climate Policy That Targeted Coal Emissions

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STATEIMPACT PENNSYLVANIA – The Trump Administration has rolled back one of President Obama’s signature climate policies designed to cut coal plant emissions.

The new rule is aimed at helping struggling coal power plants remain open, and is expected to hamper efforts to cut carbon emissions.

FirstEnergy’s Bruce Mansfield Power Plant in Shippingport, Pa. (Reid Frazier/StateImpact Pennsylvania)

Obama’s Clean Power Plan set national standards and would have cut carbon emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the finalized CPP replacement rule to a room full of coal miners. Wheeler said the new regulation, known as the Affordable Clean Energy rule, lets the states decide their own emissions standards.

“That means cleaner and more affordable energy for the American public,” he said. 

Pennsylvania is the third-largest coal producing state in the country. But coal generated electricity plants have struggled to compete with cheaper natural gas and renewable energy.

Clean Air Council executive director Joe Minott says the move will slow progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“And also more particulate pollutants and sulfur dioxide and pollutants that will have an immediate effect on people’s health,” Minott said.

In Pennsylvania, Gov. Wolf is asking lawmakers to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a collaborative cap-and-trade effort among New England and Mid-Atlantic states that puts a price on carbon emissions.

Coal advocates praised the new rule. Rachel Gleason, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance says coal is a reliable source of power.

“The Affordable Clean Energy rule allows states like Pennsylvania to develop common-sense solutions that address their energy needs while utilizing advanced technologies and strategies to reduce emissions,” said Gleason.  “Pennsylvania’s industries, businesses and consumers rely on the affordable and dependable electricity that is powered by Pennsylvania’s coal reserves and produced by Pennsylvania’s miners. The ACE rule will allow the Commonwealth to customize its approach to reducing emissions while reducing the economic hardships that would have resulted from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach called for in the Clean Power Plan.”

The Affordable Clean Energy rule is expected to face court challenges.

StateImpact Pennsylvania is a collaboration among WITF, WHYY, WESA and the Allegheny Front to report on the commonwealth’s energy economy.