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How Trump's rules on coal-fired power plants differ from Obama's

22 August 2018

The new proposed rule, which the EPA calls the "Affordable Clean Energy" rule, would eliminate Obama-era standards that would have required power plants to reduce carbon emissions either by converting from coal to cleaner sources of energy or by building carbon-capture technologies.

According to the agency estimations, the power sector's greenhouse gas emissions would continue to decline in coming years, but due mostly to market pressures. Although it is unlikely to dramatically alter the USA power mix - or give a big boost to domestic coal demand, which has flagged amid competition from cheap natural gas and renewables - industry advocates hailed the effort as curbing federal government overreach and leveling the playing field.

Environmental groups warned the focus on improving efficiency of coal-fired generators could raise overall carbon emissions.

"First, fossil fuel interests won't have to make the big cuts in climate-altering carbon pollution that the Obama-era plan would require, exacerbating the destructive impacts of climate change", he explained.

The Trump proposal may open a small window for a revival of coal even as it prolongs uncertainty over the USA electricity mix and casts doubt on investments by utilities making decades-long choices about new plants and upgrades.

But officials from the EPA say the proposal would provide companies with an incentive to update their operations and that the agency has other policies that reduce traditional pollutants.

President Trump has moved to roll back dozens of Obama's environmental regulations, and the Affordable Clean Energy rule is his latest move to make good on campaign promises to help the languishing coal industry.

The rollback of the Clean Power Plan is part of a broader repeal of federal regulations by the Trump administration laid out in a March Executive Order, which directed agencies to "immediately review existing regulations that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources and appropriately suspend, revise, or rescind" them.

Tuesday's move opens a public-comment period on the proposal before any final administration action.

The rule also could allow power plant owners to sidestep costly permits for those improvements.

Trump has vowed to end what Republicans call a "war on coal" waged by Obama.

The EPA is not altering its landmark 2009 conclusion that greenhouse gases threaten health and human welfare - a finding underpinning the power plant regulation and compelling the Trump's move Tuesday.

What are the main differences between the Trump administration's proposals and the clean power plan? The Trump EPA estimates that, by 2030, there will be an additional, for example, between 470 and 1,400 deaths a year as a result of an uptick in those traditional pollutants. More CO2 emissions means more of the other harmful stuff.

"We are getting us back in our lane", said Bill Wehrum, the EPA's clean air chief. And past year Trump announced that he would pull the US out of the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change.

Of the Obama Administration's many power grabs, none was more audacious than its bid to regulate coal-fired electric power out of business. The proposed replacement rightly restores regulatory power to states, they said. Officials pointed to the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court had stayed the implementation of the Clean Power Plan in response to a lawsuit arguing that the EPA had over extended itself.

How Trump's rules on coal-fired power plants differ from Obama's