Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its plan to repeal and replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.
- EPA replaced the Clean Power Plan with the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, which requires coal plants to become more efficient.
- “ACE is an important step towards realigning EPA actions so they are consistent with the rule of law,” a former EPA official said.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its plan to repeal and replace an Obama-era regulation that critics said would cost thousands of coal industry jobs.
The Clean Power Plan never went into effect. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on its implementation in 2016. EPA’s replacement plan, called the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, asks states to improve coal plant efficiency.
“ACE is an important step towards realigning EPA actions so they are consistent with the rule of law and the original mission of the agency,” Mandy Gunasekara, a former Trump EPA official who worked on ACE, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“While it’s well known that the political team believes this to be the case, it’s not as well known that there are many career officials who are equally relieved with returning to EPA’s traditional approach of regulating under this part of the Clean Air Act,” Gunasekara said.
It’s a massive shift from the Obama administration’s effort to cut power plant greenhouse gas emissions and tackle climate change. The Obama EPA required states to make deep cuts to power sector emissions, including by using more natural gas and renewables.
“We think that goes beyond EPA’s authority and we cannot do that as a matter of law under the Clean Air Act,” a senior EPA official told reporters Wednesday.
A coalition of states, businesses and unions challenged the Clean Power Plan in federal court, calling it EPA overreach. President Donald Trump’s EPA agrees with that sentiment. The ACE rule takes a narrower approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (RELATED: Iconic National Parks Are Falling Into Disrepair)
“The rule takes a sensible and legally sound approach to regulating carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s coal fleet,” Michelle Bloodworth, president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, said in a statement.
The Clean Power Plan was expected to force more coal power plants and mines to close down, costing thousands of jobs. Nearly 40% coal-fired power capacity has been retired or announced plans to retire, Bloodworth said.
Environmentalists oppose ACE, calling it a rollback of regulations meant to protect public health. Environmentalists may launch legal challenges to block ACE from going into effect.
“It’s time for this administration to listen to the voices of the future demanding action on this crisis and moving our country toward a 100 percent clean energy economy instead of siding with polluters and the voices of the past,” Christy Goldfuss, senior vice president for energy and environment at the Center for American Progress, said in a statement.
However, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler countered that narrative on Twitter Wednesday.
EPA’s position is that since the Supreme Court prevented the Clean Power Plan from going into effect, ACE can’t be rolled back. The EPA senior official said market forces are reducing emissions further than the Clean Power Plan would have.
“I don’t see this as a scaling back. I see this as a correction,” the senior official said. “Market forces alone are accomplishing historic change in the power sector.”