The Trump administration this week is expected to formally repeal the Clean Power Plan, taking direct aim at former President Barack Obama’s climate change legacy and delivering a major win for the coal industry.
A draft proposal of the Environmental Protection Agency’s looming decision, leaked late last week and posted online, says the plan — which would have limited carbon emissions from power plants and, in the process, drastically reduced the amount of coal-generated electricity in the U.S. — goes beyond the bounds of federal law and unnecessarily hikes energy prices for consumers.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, as Oklahoma’s attorney general, sued the federal government over the policy. He and others who took legal action contend the agency doesn’t have authority under the federal Clean Air Act to enact such sweeping changes to how power plants are run.
“The EPA proposes to determine that the CPP is not within Congress’s grant of authority to the agency under the governing statute. It is not in the interests of the EPA, or in accord with its mission of environmental protection consistent with the rule of law, to expend its resources along the path of implementing a rule, receiving and passing judgment on state plans, or promulgating federal plans in furtherance of a policy that is not within the bounds of our statutory authority,” the agency says.
The document concludes months of review of the policy, which was to become effective shortly after Mr. Pruitt took charge in February.
“The EPA is proposing to repeal the CPP in its entirety,” the agency says in its draft conclusion, the final version of which is expected to be released any day.
The Clean Power Plan, the most controversial of all the environmental measures put forth during the Obama administration, has never taken effect because of legal challenges and a stay by the U.S. Supreme Court.
But the proposal still had dramatic results. Utilities shelved coal projects in preparation of the rule, and coal-fired facilities were scheduled to shut down because it would be virtually impossible for them to comply with the emissions mandates and remain financially viable.
The Clean Power Plan was designed to cut carbon pollution from the power generation sector by more than 30 percent by 2030 when compared with 2005 levels. The rule was a key component of the nation’s broader emissions-reduction pledge under the Paris climate accord, which President Trump exited this summer.
Even though the plan has never gone into effect and it has been clear since Mr. Trump’s election that it would likely be killed, environmentalists say the impending EPA action will be a disaster.
“If the Clean Power Plan is repealed, Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt will go down in infamy for launching one of the most egregious attacks ever on public health, our climate and the safety of every community in the United States,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement, adding that the environmental group will take its fight to court.
“Trump can’t reverse our clean energy and climate progress with the stroke of a pen, and we’ll fight him and Scott Pruitt in the courts, in the streets, and at the state and local level across America to protect the health of every community,” Mr. Brune said.
The EPA likely will be required to address carbon pollution in some form under court-imposed rulings for the Clean Air Act, which labels carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.
“The EPA has not determined whether it will promulgate a rule … to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing [power plants] and, if it will do so, when it will do so and what form that rule will take,” the agency says in the draft proposal.