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Obama's Landmark Climate Rule Is Dead

EPA chief Andrew Wheeler signed replacement rule Wednesday
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 19, 2019 12:02 PM CDT

(Newser) – The Trump administration on Wednesday completed one of its biggest rollbacks of environmental rules, replacing a landmark Obama-era effort that sought to wean the nation's electrical grid off coal-fired power plants and their climate-damaging pollution. EPA chief Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, signed a replacement rule that gives states leeway in deciding what level of emissions cuts to require at existing coal plants. Some opinions for and against, and other takes on the implications, per the AP and others:

  • For: Wheeler said coal-fired power plants remained essential to the power grid, something that opponents deny. "Americans want reliable energy that they can afford," he said at a news conference. There's no denying "the fact that fossil fuels will continue to be an important part of the mix."
  • For: Rep. David McKinley, a West Virginia Republican, was one of several coal country lawmakers on hand for the signing. He argued that power from the sun and wind was not yet reliable enough to depend on. "We're not ready for renewable energy ... so we need coal."

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  • Against: "The Trump administration's outrageous Dirty Power Scam is a stunning giveaway to big polluters, giving dirty special interests the greenlight to choke our skies, poison our waters and worsen the climate crisis," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
  • Implications: Joseph Goffman, an EPA official under President Obama, said he feared that the Trump administration was trying to set a legal precedent that the Clean Air Act gives the federal government "next to no authority to do anything" about climate-changing emissions from the country's power grid.
  • The New York Times elaborates: It reports legal challenges will follow, and explains the crux of the issue: the EPA's authority. Obama's rule saw that authority as expansive, with the EPA having the power to establish country-wide rules for carbon emissions. The Trump administration has a much more narrow view, seeing the EPA as only being able to step in to deal with environmental issues (say, a chemical spill) suffered at an individual plant.
  • The timeline: The HuffPost details what has happened since the Clean Power Plan was first floated in 2015. Stops along the way: The Supreme Court issued a stay the next year and the EPA under Trump proposed repealing it in late 2017. But the EPA's Endangerment Finding complicated things, requiring a replacement rule. That eventually takes us to the Affordable Clean Energy rule announced Wednesday.
(Read more Environmental Protection Agency stories.)

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