EPA pro­poses rolling back Obama-era coal rule

The Columbus Dispatch - - Front Page - By Ellen Knickmeyer

WASH­ING­TON — The En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency pro­posed an­other roll­back Thurs­day aimed at eas­ing con­trols on emis­sions from coal-fired power plants, this time for new ones, even as warn­ings mount from the agency’s sci­en­tists and oth­ers about the grow­ing toll of cli­mate change.

The EPA’s act­ing ad­min­is­tra­tor signed a pro­posal that, if ap­proved by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion after pub­lic re­view, would loosen an Obama-era rule that would have re­quired cut­ting-edge car­bon-cap­ture tech­niques for new coal plants. An­drew Wheeler said the curbs on coal emis­sions were “ex­ces­sive bur­dens” on the in­dus­try.

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and sci­en­tists say this plan and other pro­posed ad­min­is­tra­tion roll­backs on pol­lu­tants from fos­sil fu­els run counter to des­per­ately needed ef­forts to slow cli­mate change.

The an­nounce­ment Thurs­day came two weeks after a re­port by the EPA and 12 other fed­eral agen­cies warned that cli­mate change caused by burn­ing of coal, oil and gas al­ready was wors­en­ing nat­u­ral dis­as­ters in the United States and would cause hun­dreds of bil­lions of dol­lars in dam­age each year by the end of the cen­tury.

Asked about eas­ing the way for new coal plants in the con­text of the harm from coal pol­lu­tion on hu­mans and the en­vi­ron­ment, Wheeler said “hav­ing cheap elec­tric­ity helps hu­man health.”

Speak­ing along­side Wheeler at a news con­fer­ence, Michelle Blood­worth of the coal in­dus­try group Amer­ica’s Power said the lat­est roll­back could throw a life­line to do­mes­tic coal­fired power pro­duc­ers.

Wheeler said the re­sult of the roll­back would be cheaper en­ergy.

In an­other devel­op­ment, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is ex­pected to put forth a le­gal pro­posal Tues­day that would sig­nif­i­cantly weaken a ma­jor Oba­maera reg­u­la­tion on clean wa­ter, ac­cord­ing to a talk­ing points memo from the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency.

The Obama rule was de­signed to limit pol­lu­tion in about 60 per­cent of the na­tion’s bod­ies of wa­ter, pro­tect­ing sources of drink­ing wa­ter for about a third of the United States. It ex­tended ex­ist­ing fed­eral au­thor­ity to limit pol­lu­tion in large bod­ies of wa­ter, like the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay and Puget Sound, to smaller bod­ies that drain into them, such as trib­u­taries, streams and wet­lands.

But it be­came a tar­get for ru­ral landowner, since it could have re­stricted how much pol­lu­tion from chem­i­cal fer­til­iz­ers and pes­ti­cides could seep into wa­ter on their prop­erty.

The re­vised rule would ex­clude from reg­u­la­tion streams and trib­u­taries that do not run year round. It would also ex­clude wet­lands that are not di­rectly con­nected to larger bod­ies of wa­ter.

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