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The EPA will reverse a critical clean energy policy so polluters can burn more coal

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Bye-bye, Clean Power Plan

Beset With Unemployment And Poverty, West Virginians Look To Trump For Help
A tractor moves coal at a coal prep plant outside the city of Welch in rural West Virginia on May 19th, 2017.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Trump administration announced today that it will take steps to repeal a federal policy that would have pushed states to abandon coal and switch to renewable energy. The move was long expected, and it’s likely to be fought in the courts by environmental groups and attorneys general from several states.

The announcement targets the Clean Power Plan (CPP), a core climate change policy passed under President Barack Obama that aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. “The war on coal is over,” said Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt at an event in Kentucky. “Tomorrow in Washington, DC, I will be signing a proposed rule to roll back the Clean Power Plan. No better place to make that announcement than Hazard, Kentucky.”

President Donald Trump had signed an executive order in March directing Pruitt to repeal the CPP, which the administration sees as an overreach in presidential power that kills jobs. In reality, the CPP was Obama’s attempt at tackling climate change by ordering fossil fuel-fired power plants — which are the largest concentrated source of CO2 emissions in the US — to cut carbon pollution by about 30 percent by 2030. Reducing carbon pollution has health benefits — including fewer asthma attacks in children. The regulations would also lead to an estimated $55 billion to $93 billion per year in 2030 in climate and health benefits, Obama’s EPA said.

The CPP was challenged in federal court, and the Supreme Court blocked it from taking effect. (The plan still could have taken effect if it survived the battle in the courts.) Nonetheless, the regulations were seen as key to meet the emission reduction goals set by the Paris agreement, a landmark deal that commits almost every country in the world to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to fight global warming. But Trump vowed to pull the US out of the climate deal.

The repeal proposal, which was obtained by several news outlets, argues that the Obama administration overstepped its legal authority by forcing utilities around the country to reduce carbon emissions outside their actual facilities — by replacing coal plants with wind and solar farms, for instance, according to The New York Times. The proposal does not lay out a replacement to the CPP just yet. Instead, the administration wants to open a period of public comment to figure out the best way to replace the CPP and cut emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants.

Once the administration finalizes the repeal, the legal fight is likely to begin. New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman vowed today that he and a coalition of states will sue the Trump administration over the repeal. “Fuel-burning power plants are one of our nation’s largest sources of climate change pollution, and common-sense science — and the law — dictate that EPA take action to cut these emissions,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “The Trump Administration’s persistent and indefensible denial of climate change — and their continued assault on actions essential to stemming its increasing devastation — is reprehensible, and I will use every available legal tool to fight their dangerous agenda.”