President Trump has made good on a campaign promise to help the coal industry. The Trump administration’s EPA has announced the much-anticipated repeal of the Obama-era environmental rules that would be devastating to coal and proposed replacement rules that are far less restrictive.
The Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule proposes returning authority and flexibility to the states as they develop plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Coal-fired power plants, which have been shutting down in record numbers because of tighter regulations and competition from natural gas and alternative fuels, would get a reprieve.
“We’re ending intrusive EPA regulations that kill jobs and raise the price of energy so quickly and so substantially,” Trump said.
The proposed rule has a long way to go before final approval, and environmentalists will mount a vigorous legal challenge. They will argue, among other things, that the ACE rule fails to adhere to the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring the EPA to regulate carbon emissions as a pollutant.
Still, the ACE rule will help coal miners, coal companies, people who work for companies that supply the industry, and states like West Virginia that count on energy for tax revenue. The change of regulatory direction by the Trump administration means coal is no longer targeted for elimination like it was under Obama and his EPA.
The Obama-proposed Clean Power Plan, which ACE replaces, was a dramatic federal overreach with rules so restrictive that building a new coal-fired power plant would have been impossible and retrofitting an existing plant would have been prohibitively expensive.
Additionally, the Clean Power Plan was always a kind of environmental pig in a poke. According to the EPA’s own figures, full implementation would only have reduced global temperatures by one one-hundredth of a degree Celsius by 2100. The EPA sought to cover that inconvenient truth by claiming billions of dollars in economic benefits through the reduction of particulates.
The Clean Power Plan “was a major impediment for our industry forward in terms of what our markets look like,” National Mining Association president and CEO Hal Quinn told the Wall Street Journal. “This removes that pressure.”
Don’t expect coal to come roaring back. The energy landscape is changing rapidly and coal’s dominance as the nation’s primary energy source is now history. However, the new rule does correct the previous administration’s attempt to eliminate coal through regulatory fiat and allows more market-driven solutions to the nation’s energy needs.