EPA proposes rolling back Obama-era coal rule
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.