EPA to roll back emissions rule for new coal plants
WASHINGTON » The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday said it plans to reverse a rule that would have forced new U. S. coal plants to install technology to capture their carbon dioxide emissions, marking the latest effort by the Trump administration to repeal Obamaera climate regulations.
Acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler said at an afternoon news conference that the Obama administration’s rule, which effectively required any new coal plant to have costly carbon capture equipment to meet certain emissions standards, was “disingenuous” because the costs of the technology made new coal plans infeasible.
Wheeler said the Trump administration’s proposed policy would have “high yet achievable standards that are rooted in reality,” that would result in “leveling the playing field” for all types of fuels.
“You will see a decrease in emissions,” Wheeler argued, saying that U. S. investments would lead to new technologies. “By allowing the genius of the private sector to work, we can keep American energy reliable and abundant.”
The latest Trump administration environmental rollback, if adopted, likely would have little real-world impact, both industry representatives and environmental activists said.
“There are not going to be any new coal plants built in the U.S., with or without this,” said David Doniger, a senior climate and energy policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Nevertheless, Doniger called the proposal a “headin- the- sand” attempt to pander to the coal industry for which Wheeler used to lobby, and to ignore evergrowing evidence of the risks of climate change.
“The science is telling us we drastically need to cut back on the emissions from fossil fuel combustion,” Doniger said. “Any administration which is looking at reality would not be re- pealing this requirement, it would be looking at ways to extend it. ... They are going exactly backwards.”
Jeff Holmstead, a partner at the law and energy lobbying firm Bracewell and former head of the EPA’s air and radiation office, agreed that undoing what effectively amounted to a ban on new coal plants is “mostly symbolic at this point.” Moreover, Holmstead said, there has never been an application for modifying or reconstructing a plant under the section of the Clean Air Act the rule is based upon.
The National Mining Association, however, said that building new more efficient coal plants could reduce the nation’s overall carbon dioxide emissions. “Improving the average efficiency rate of coal-fired power plants from 33 percent to 40 percent by using the advanced high efficiency, low emissions technology that exists could cut U. S. coal-plant emissions by up to 21 percent,” said Ashley Burke, a spokeswoman for the trade association.