- Obama wanted the Clean Power Plan to be the centerpiece of his climate agenda, including meeting Paris climate accord goals.
- Trump ruined Obama’s plans in 2017, and now is going even further.
- EPA’s new rule is more lenient, but is expected to still cut emissions.
The Trump Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began the process of replacing former President Barack Obama’s signature global warming regulation that was supposed to bring the U.S. into compliance with the Paris climate accord.
But those plans were dashed when President Donald Trump announced he would withdraw from the Paris accord in 2017, and now, Obama’s signature climate regulation is being rolled back.
Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler proposed Tuesday the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Plan, a more lenient regulatory scheme to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants.
“Between ACE, the recently proposed rollback of the Obama fuel economy standards known as CAFE, and the US pullout from the Paris climate agreement, the Obama climate legacy has been erased by President Trump,” Trump transition team member Steve Milloy told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
EPA’s new regulatory framework would focus on improving heat-rate efficiency at individual coal-fired power plants, making it easier for plants to upgrade their equipment and give states more authority over regulating emissions.
“Although ACE is not a total rollback of the Obama climate rules, that’s okay for now as it constitutes practical rollback of them,” said Milloy, who runs the website JunkScience.com. (RELATED: Trump Administration Creates New Rule Significantly Weakening Obama’s Clean Power Plan)
Obama wanted the Clean Power Plan (CPP) to be the centerpiece of his climate agenda, and also serve as a symbol of U.S. “leadership” on the issue of global warming. In fact, the rule on its own would have had little to no impact on future global warming.
“We see it as having had enormous benefit in showing sort of domestic leadership as well as garnering support around the country for the agreement we reached in Paris,” former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy told Congress in 2016.
The Obama administration joined the Paris climate accord in 2016, promising to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025. The CPP would have played a large role in meeting that goal, though more regulations were likely needed to cut emissions by that much.
However, the CPP never went into effect. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay against implementing the rule in early 2016 after 27 states and a whole host of industries and conservative groups filed suit to have it overturned.
The CPP required states to come up with plans to reduce carbon dioxide from existing power plants, aiming to cut emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. EPA says ACE will achieve similar levels of emissions cuts once fully implemented.
Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt began the process of repealing the CPP in October 2017, but the agency opted to impose a more lenient rule instead of continue with Pruitt’s plan for full repeal.
Behind the scenes, industry lobbyists “urged Mr. Pruitt to put forward a replacement, preferably one far weaker than the original,” The New York Times reported in July. Energy companies worried “repealing the climate rule without offering a substitute would not hold up in court.”
Companies also worried repealing the CPP with no replacement “could leave an opening for even tougher regulations under a future Democratic president,” TheNYT reported.
Pruitt tendered his resignation in early July after media reports piled up detailing alleged overspending and ethics violations.
Democrats and environmentalists are expected to challenge the Trump administration’s replacement to the CPP in court once it’s finalized. Environmentalists said ACE is a step backwards.
“By relaxing standards and allowing states to opt out, the plan encourages companies to invest more in aging coal plants and state utility commissions to allow those expenditures,” said Robert Schuwerk, the North American executive director of Carbon Tracker.
“Meeting climate targets, however, clearly require companies to retire their coal fleets, not extend operations,” Schuwerk said in a statement.
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