The Trump administration is expected to unveil a new carbon emission rule for the U.S. power industry on Wednesday, replacing an Obama-era regulation to fight climate change that it scrapped for being too hard on the coal industry.
The Affordable Clean Energy rule is expected to give states broad leeway in how they regulate emissions from power plants, in line with a draft blueprint the agency released last year, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Obama’s Clean Power Plan had aimed to slash power plant carbon emissions by more than a third from 2005 levels by 2030, which would have forced utilities to drop coal in favor of cleaner fuels like natural gas. The regulation was never enacted because of lawsuits by Republican states.
President Donald Trump vowed early in his presidency to kill the Clean Power Plan as part of his administration’s attempt to revive the ailing coal industry.
“I think the final ACE rule is consistent with President Trump’s commitment to get the EPA out of the business of telling American workers and coal workers how and when they will work,” said Mandy Gunasekara, a former senior EPA official who now runs Energy 45 Fund, a pro-Trump advocacy group.
The EPA said last year the ACE rule could achieve carbon cuts similar to those targeted by the Clean Power Plan. Environmentalists and some state attorneys general say the final rule is likely to lead to increases, not cuts, in carbon emissions over the next few decades, however.
“Utilities may respond to this rule by making hardware fixes or operational changes that ... could mean some coal pants will run longer,” said Joe Goffman, executive director of the Environmental & Energy Law Program at Harvard and former EPA General Counsel, who worked on the Clean Power Plan.
A Reuters survey last October of 44 utilities that have announced plans to shutter coal units in coming years showed none of them expected the new EPA proposal would affect the timing of those retirements.
The EPA is also expected to announce changes to the way it calculates the health risks of air pollution, which could result in fewer predicted deaths, the New York Times reported last month. The EPA’s own analysis of its ACE proposal from last August said the policy would result in an additional 1,400 premature deaths per year.