EPA Sends Replacement for Clean Power Plan to Trump

The Trump administration is moving forward with its effort to replace the Clean Power Plan, with the president set to review a document sent to the White House on July 9.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on July 10 said a new rule, which insiders said would be more favorable to the coal industry, was sent to the president on Monday. The document itself has not been released. The EPA in a statement Tuesday said would seek public comment on the new measure only after a White House review is completed. EPA spokeswoman Molly Block in a statement said the agency would move quickly on the replacement rule but did not provide a timeline.

Trump has repeatedly said the Clean Power Plan (CPP), pushed by the Obama administration, was part of the previous president’s “war on coal.” The CPP was part of that administration’s push for tougher environmental regulations and pollution standards for power generation and other industries. Trump has moved to support both coal and nuclear power, asking for government intervention in power markets to help both coal and nuclear power plants.

Coal, once the dominant fuel for U.S. power generation, has increasingly been replaced in recent years by low-cost, abundant natural gas, and renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind power. Nuclear and coal plants have struggled during a period of low prices for power.

Monday was the first day with former coal industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler leading the EPA after the resignation last week of former agency chief Scott Pruitt, who stepped down amid continuing investigations into possible ethics violations during his time as EPA head.

Wheeler, like Pruitt, in the past has been skeptical about the impact of power plant emissions on climate change.

President Obama in the CPP sought to cut U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to 32% below 2005 levels by 2030, largely by reducing pollution from coal-fired power plants. Trump’s EPA last year said the CPP overstepped federal law by setting emissions standards that power plants could not reasonably meet. In December, the agency said it would write a replacement plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

The CPP was never officially adopted. The Supreme Court put the plan on hold in 2016 after legal challenges from industry and several coal-friendly states. However, the CPP was partly credited with pushing the retirement of many coal plants, mostly due to the cost of installing emissions-reducing equipment. Industry analysts, though, said many of those plants would have closed regardless due to competition from cheaper natural gas and renewable power, particularly in states adopting renewable energy mandates. 

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).