The Trump administration is once again rolling back Obama-era climate regulations, now targeting regulations on emissions from new coal plants, according to CBS News. The rules would have required any new coal plants to include advanced technology to capture carbon emissions.
“This administration cares about action and results, not talks and wishful thinking,” said acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Andrew Wheeler, after signing the proposal at an EPA ceremony.
Yet, the prospect of any new coal plants may be little more than wishful thinking, according to the EPA’s own predictions. In the proposal itself, the agency says they don’t expect the rollback to lead to the construction of any new plants.
“The modeling of the electricity sector EPA performed for this rule using the Integrated Planning Model (IPM) projects that, even under the emissions limits included in this proposal, new fossil fuel-fired capacity constructed through 2026 and the years following is expected to be natural gas capacity,” they state in an economic impact analysis of the proposal.
Coal power not only faces threats from regulations like the one dismantled by the EPA, but also competition from cheap natural gas and increasingly affordable renewable energy sources. The Energy Information Administration said this week that US coal use has reached its lowest level in almost 40 years.
Former EPA air official Janet McCabe said the agency is “turning its back on its responsibility to protect human health,” citing an EPA statement from earlier this year saying regulatory rollbacks on the coal industry would lead to thousands of early deaths as a result of air pollution.
The EPA, along with other federal agencies, also contributed to a National Climate Assessment report released last month which projected billions of dollars in damages as a result of climate change stemming from carbon emissions. They said natural disasters and extreme weather are already being exacerbated by climate change.
Yet reviving the ailing coal industry has been one of the Trump administration’s stated goals, with the president saying this year that the White House has “ended the war on beautiful, clean coal.”
Kentucky Senator and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the rule was “another regulation that would have made it nearly impossible to build any new plants in the future,” saying the rollback “is a crucial step toward undoing the damage and putting coal back on a level playing field.”