- The Washington Times - Monday, December 18, 2017

The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday kicked off a process to replace the highly controversial Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era regulation designed to limit carbon emissions from power plants.

The agency, which earlier this year began the formal process of repealing the regulation, said it will begin accepting public comments on a possible replacement. The action seems to provide the answer as to whether EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt would offer up anything in place of the Clean Power Plan, something legal scholars have said he’d be forced to do in light of Supreme Court rulings that say the federal government must address carbon pollution in some way.

“Today’s move ensures adequate and early opportunity for public comment from all stakeholders about next steps the agency might take to limit greenhouse gases from stationary sources, in a way that properly stays within the law, and the bounds of the authority provided to EPA by Congress,” Mr. Pruitt said in a statement.

The Clean Power Plan, a key environmental legacy item for former President Obama and one that formed the backbone of the U.S. commitment under the Paris climate accord, called for a 32-percent reduction in carbon emissions from the power-generation sector by 2030. Such a drastic cut would be possible only by phasing out many of the nation’s coal-fired power plants.

Immediately after coming to power, Mr. Pruitt began dismantling the rule, arguing it far exceeded EPA’s legal authority. Until Monday, it was unclear whether he’d replace it with a more flexible regulation.

Doing nothing, specialists have argued, would have invited significant legal trouble, as courts have said the government has a duty to address carbon pollution under the federal Clean Air Act.

Still, environmental groups say Monday’s action is little more than a sham and that Mr. Pruitt’s move doesn’t guarantee he’ll actually offer a replacement. Instead, the agency’s request for public comment, critics say, is a stalling tactic.

“By slow-walking its legal duty to protect our climate, EPA panders to fossil fuel polluters at the expense of communities around the nation,” said Trip Van Noppen, president of the environmental group Earthjustice. “Floods and wildfires supercharged by a warming climate are already causing major suffering for millions of people, and scientists tell us we must take decisive action soon if we are to prevent even worse impacts.”

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