EPA announces rollback of Obama-era coal emissions rule

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday a plan to roll back Obama administration-era coal emissions standards.

Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the change would help the coal industry by alleviating unnecessary burdens.

“By replacing onerous regulations with high, yet achievable, standards, we can continue America’s historic energy production, keep energy prices affordable, and encourage new investments in cutting-edge technology that can then be exported around the world,” Wheeler said in a statement.

The original 2015 rule would have required carbon-capture and storage technology for new coal plants.

The revision lifts that requirement, which Wheeler described as overly costly.

The proposal also limits carbon dioxide emissions from 1,400 pounds per megawatt-hour to 1,900 pounds. The agency estimates this will not result in any major change to carbon dioxide emissions.

While coal plants have been on the decline for years, due to a combination of cheaper natural gas options and regulations from the federal government, the new ruling is the latest step meant to boost the industry.

TRUMP ANNOUNCES PLANS TO NAME WHEELER PERMANENT EPA CHIEF

But like other Trump administration efforts to roll back Obama-era regulations, the decision is almost certain to face legal challenges from environmental groups.

Democrats responded immediately saying the proposal shows the Trump administration’s priority is the coal industry and not the environment. New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone, ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said administration wants to “protect the interest of polluters.”

“Today’s announcement is another attempt by the Trump Administration to prop up the coal industry at a time when carbon emissions worldwide are reaching record levels,” Pallone said in a statement. “Building new coal plants in the U.S. is not economical due to abundant cleaner and cheaper sources of energy, and this new roll back won’t change that reality.”

In August, the Trump EPA announced a separate plan giving states more authority over how to regulate greenhouse gases. The Affordable Clean Energy Rule, as it’s called, aimed to replace Obama’s Clean Power Plan, though the administration has faced legal challenges.