EPA to ease constraints on construction of coal power plants

The coal industry argues the existing Obama administration requirements made it all but impossible to build new coal power plants, by requiring costly technologies such as carbon capture and storage.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke a year ago had ordered a review of protections for the sage-grouse to "ensure conservation efforts do not impede local economic opportunities", one of numerous reviews of Obama-era environmental protections launched by Trump's administration.

President Donald Trump promised to bring back coal miners' jobs and remove regulations on coal as a central part of his campaign, saying the Obama administration went too far to impose rules meant to limit pollution and emissions that contribute to climate change.

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt has resigned and President Trump has picked EPA Deputy Director Andrew Wheeler to serve as acting Director.

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler speaks to staff at the Environmental Protection Agency headquarters on July 11, 2018, in Washington, D.C. Now perhaps repealing this rule might encourage coal companies to go out there and build new plants and whatever, but considering the staggering drop in demand, that seems unlikely, so this may actually be one of those cases where the Trump administration comes in, repeals and Obama rule allows for more pollution, but that pollution may not actually materialize because they're, once again, essentially betting on a dead horse because that's what coal is at this point.

The EPA was "turning its back on its responsibility to protect human health", McCabe said.

The replacement measure eases those constraints, and sends a powerful signal to the coal industry, as well as to other countries struggling with the political difficulties of addressing climate change, that the U.S. is trying to pave the way for coal-fuelled power plants. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat and member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement. "With this decision, this EPA is willfully choosing to ignore the clear science on climate change, put our health at risk and hamper our economy", said Carper.

But coal industry officials believe this rule change will still help. The government lists plans for two new major coal fired power plants over the next five years, which could benefit from the EPA's rollback. In August, after the EPA moved to rescind the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, Southern Co.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said the EPA's action Thursday was "targeting another regulation that would have made it almost impossible to build any new plants".

The reversal won't lead to the immediate construction of new coal-fired power plants, but it does send an immediate political signal that the Trump administration is intent on shoring up the coal industry and other energy interests.

The Energy Information Administration said this week that US coal consumption had fallen to a 40-year low.

Renewable resources like wind and solar power have also been growing in use, cutting into the energy market that coal once dominated.

"Coal deserves a level playing field, and that's what this White House is trying to accomplish", McConnell said.

"The standards effectively ban the construction of new coal power plants-a policy Congress never approved and would not pass if put to a vote", Lewis said in a statement.

Vanessa Coleman

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