White House, Unions Brainstorm Clean Power Plan Replacement


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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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Trump administration officials met with labor union representatives Monday to discuss a potential replacement for the Obama administration’s signature policy to tackle global warming and comply with the Paris climate accord.

According to White House records, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials sat down with representatives of labor unions that opposed the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which limited carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants.

The EPA is in the process of reviewing the CPP and is expected to rescind the rule in the near future. President Donald Trump pledged to repeal policies the Obama administration imposed as part of its “climate agenda.”

The Obama administration finalized the CPP in 2015, touting it as a sign of U.S. leadership on global warming. Former President Barack Obama incorporated the CPP’s projected emissions cuts into his his pledge to comply with the Paris accord.

Trump administration and union officials not only discussed reasons to repeal the CPP, but also the legal basis for implementing a replacement policy.

Much of the focus in the meeting seemed to be on reforming EPA’s New Source Review (NSR) permitting program, which are required to upgrade, modify or build new industrial facilities or power plants.

An OMB handout from the meeting claims NSR “has stymied investment in the existing existing coal fleet due to concerns concerns about triggering [Best Available Control Technology] and other onerous NSR permitting requirements.”

“To enhance the effectiveness of a replacement CPP rule, EPA must streamline NSR regulations to incentivize incentivize major investments investments in areas such as boiler and turbine upgrades,” reads the handout. “Substantial efficiency improvements would result in the existing coal fleet, along with reduced CO2 emission rates.”

It also discusses an “inside the fence” rule to replace the CPP that focuses on coal plant heat rate efficiency to reduce carbon dioxide along with a “trading” system to “minimize cost.”

Unions represented at the meeting included the United Mine Workers of America, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO and the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers.

All are concerned about the CPP’s impact on coal-fired power plants and mines, and obviously want a say in any replacement plan the Trump administration puts forward to cut carbon dioxide at power plants.

While not traditional allies, many unions opposed the Obama administration’s environmental agenda because of its focus on shutting down power plants and coal mines that employ thousands of union members.

Even if the EPA rescinds the CPP —  a move that will likely be challenged in court — the agency will have to at some point replace the regulation with something else. The only way around this is for EPA to review its 2009 endangerment finding on greenhouse gases.

Conservative groups have petitioned EPA to reconsider the endangerment finding, which gave the agency its authority to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. So far, EPA hasn’t shown any sign it will reconsider the endangerment finding.

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