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EPA to Repeal Obama-Era Carbon Emissions Rule

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, took steps Tuesday to repeal President Barack Obama's policy curbing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. (AP)

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt signed a measure on Tuesday to repeal regulations that curb greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants. The Washington Post says:

The Obama-era climate rule, dubbed the Clean Power Plan, aimed to cut carbon emissions from the nation’s electricity sector 32 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. That measure, which the Supreme Court stayed after 28 attorneys general and the utility industry challenged it in court, would have required states to meet targets by reducing emissions at individual plants as well as by deploying renewable energy and taking other energy-efficiency steps.

Describing the regulation as the “so-called Clean Power Plan,” an EPA statement said the repeal “will also facilitate the development of U.S. energy resources and reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens associated with the development of those resources.” However, the Post says that the policy reversal is unlikely to affect the nation’s overall shift from coal to natural gas and renewable power generation in the electricity sector, and will likely result in immediate court battles and months, if not years of litigation.”

The Trump administration’s efforts to undo Obama-era climate protections have frequently been thwarted by the courts. The New York Times writes:

The latest such ruling came late Wednesday, when a federal magistrate judge in Northern California vacated a move by the Department of Interior to delay compliance with rules curbing so-called flaring, a technique oil and gas companies use to burn off leaking methane. Flaring is blamed for contributing to climate change as well as lost tax revenues because the drilling is being done on federal land.

It was the third time since July that the Environmental Protection Agency or the Interior Department has been found to have acted illegally in their rush to roll back environmental rules.

And in three other environmental cases, the Trump administration reversed course on its own after lawsuits accusing it of illegal actions were filed by environmental groups and Democratic state attorneys general.

President Trump has referred to the Clean Power Plan as “stupid” and “job-killing.” ABC News writes:

The Clean Power Plan caps the amount of greenhouse gases that may be emitted from power plants and was a centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s plan to slow the effects of global warming.

But at [last] Monday’s announcement, Pruitt said the regulation picked “winners and losers,” echoing comments from Trump and other officials that environmental regulations eliminated jobs in businesses like the coal industry.

“When you think about the Clean Power Plan, it wasn’t about regulating to make things regular,” Pruitt said. “It was truly about regulating to pick winners and losers, and they interpreted the best system of emission reduction is generating electricity not using fossil fuels.”

The New York Times explains the environmental impact of the repeal:

Eliminating the Clean Power Plan makes it less likely that the United States can fulfill its promise as part of the Paris climate agreement to ratchet down emissions that are warming the planet and contributing to heat waves and sea-level rise. Mr. Trump has vowed to abandon that international accord …

Coal- and natural-gas-fired power plants are responsible for about one-third of America’s carbon dioxide emissions. When the Clean Power Plan was unveiled in 2015, it was expected to cut power sector emissions 32 percent by 2030, relative to 2005. While many states are already shifting away from coal power for economic reasons, experts say scrapping the rule could slow that transition.

The move is the latest in the Trump administration’s explicit pursuit of undoing the Obama administration’s legacy. Pruitt said in a statement: “We are committed to righting the wrongs of the Obama administration by cleaning the regulatory slate. Any replacement rule will be done carefully, properly, and with humility, by listening to all those affected by the rule.”

 

Emily Wells
​Emily Wells is an Ear to the Ground blogger at Truthdig. As a journalist, she began as a crime reporter at the Pulitzer-winning daily newspaper, The Press-Enterprise...
Emily Wells

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