The Slatest

Trump to Relax Rules for Coal-Fired Plants, Likely Leading to Surge in CO2 Emissions

Emissions spew from a large stack at the coal fired Brandon Shores Power Plant, on March 9, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Emissions spew from a large stack at the coal fired Brandon Shores Power Plant, on March 9, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Donald Trump is set to continue his administration’s methodical effort to dismantle the Obama administration’s signature measures to combat climate change, this time by delivering a gift to the coal industry. On Tuesday, Trump is expected to propose a broad nixing of regulations on emissions from coal plants as part of an effort to keep them operating for longer rather than phasing them out. The new rules would replace the so-called Clean Power Plan for the electricity sector in a move that would hand more power to the states and could very well lead to a sharp increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

The change in rule that the administration will put forward “is projected to release at least 12 times the amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere compared with the Obama rule over the next decade,” reports the Washington Post. The proposed rules would give more power to the states to set their own standards in what could very well amount to the Trump administration’s broadest effort to help the coal sector as a whole.

When combined with the proposal earlier this month to roll back car-efficiency mandates, the two measures represent “a significant retreat from the fight against climate change by a president who’s already vowed to pull the U.S. out of the Paris agreement,” notes Bloomberg. Joseph Goffman, executive director of Harvard Law School’s Environmental Law Program tells the Washington Post that the way the White House doesn’t seem to care about the higher emissions that would be produced as a result of the proposed rules illustrates just how low of a priority the issue is for the administration. “These numbers tell the story, that they really remain committed not to do anything to address greenhouse gas emissions,” said Goffman.

The New York Times details that the man who leads the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean air office has been key to delivering these proposed changes that favor the companies that employed him when he was in the private sector. For many environmental experts, the role of William L. Wehrum in loosening requirements that were meant to combat climate change has been key. “They basically found the most aggressive and knowledgeable fox and said, ‘Here are the keys to the hen house’,” said Bruce Buckheit, an air pollution expert.

Michelle Bloodworth, president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, which represents coal-fired generators and mining companies, celebrated the new proposed rules, saying they would “provide the flexibility to states to develop emissions guidelines that recognise the important role that our nation’s coal fleet plays.” Environmental groups are expected to challenge the new proposed rules in court.