EPA unveils Affordable Clean Energy proposal; coal applauds

WASHINGTON, W.Va. — Ahead of President Donald Trump’s return visit to West Virginia Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a new rule to relax carbon emissions limits on power plants.

The agency announced its the Affordable Clean Energy proposal on Tuesday, the morning ahead of Trump’s visit to Charleston.

“Today’s proposal provides the states and regulated community the certainty they need to continue environmental progress while fulfilling President Trump’s goal of energy dominance,” stated Andrew Wheeler, the EPA’s acting administrator.

The rule would replace the 2015 Clean Power Plan, which was stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court and has never gone into effect.

The fights that have taken place over the Clean Air Act may be mirrored by legal battles over the new Affordable Clean Energy proposal.

Many questions were already arising, including legal challenges, whether future administrations would embrace the proposal, how much such a plan would actually affect coal markets in the face of competition from natural gas and what affect there would be on decisions by power companies as they make long-term decisions about their infrastructure.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, whose candidacy for U.S. Senate was another focal point of the Trump visit, praised the proposal.

“The EPA’s proposal represents a crucial step in restoring law and order,” stated Morrisey, a Republican whose office challenged the Clean Power Plan in federal court.

“The Affordable Clean Energy rule makes important strides in reversing the Obama-era Power Plan. Our coalition will closely examine the proposal and continue to support President Trump’s administration in implementing this important change to protect West Virginia coal miners and those who depend upon their success.”

Incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin, the other candidate in the upcoming U.S. Senate race, was also critical of the Clean Power Plan, calling the EPA announcement a step in the right direction.

“I support it 1,000 percent,” Manchin said today on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

He described longstanding concerns about the Clean Power Plan. “Obama overreached,” said Manchin, D-W.Va. “Obama overreached. Obama and I fell out over this. I believe in an all-in energy policy.”“So I agree,” Manchin continued. “I agree with where the president’s going on this, and he knows that.”

The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday described the earlier Clean Power Plan as federal overreach.

The Obama administration had introduced the Clean Power Plan in response to requirements of the Clean Air Act, the main federal air pollution law.

The new plan provides states with “candidate technologies” that can be used to establish standards of performance and incorporated into their state plans.

States would determine which of the technologies are appropriate for each plant and establish a standard of performance reflecting the degree of emission reduction from their application.

EPA will take comment on the proposal for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register and will hold a public hearing.

Legal challenges are likely, just as they were for the Clean Power Plan. There’s also the possibility that future administrations would not follow through with the latest emissions proposal.

Vivian Stockman of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition said it’s hard to trust states making appropriate decisions when it comes to emissions.

“Pollution really doesn’t recognize state boundaries, and we shouldn’t be leaving regulating carbon dioxide emissions and other power plant pollution up to a state like ours,” Stockman said.

“We’ve got a billionaire governor who owns coal mines. We’ve got a history where politicians continually put the interests of coal corporations above the health and safety of our people, be they coal miners or anyone else.”

Stockman said the reaction Trump gets at the rally in Charleston may not match reality.

“Trump is obviously using the coal industry as a political football,” Stockman said. “He’s trying to please his fellow billionaire buddy Governor Jim Justice at the sake of all the rest of us.”

West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney said the plan will give the coal industry the kind of flexibility it has been requesting for several years.

“If EPA is going to do a new set of regulations that is more keyed to the states and gives them the authority that really is what the Clean Air Act is all about, that would be good to get us on another track that hopefully will establish some reasonable compliance,” Raney said.

Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., issued her own statement in favor of the new proposal and criticizing the Clean Power Plan.

“The CPP was a complete overreach by the federal government,” Capito stated. “Not only was the one-size fits-all approach disastrous for West Virginia’s coal industry, but there was also absolutely no consideration for the economic effects the plan would have on an energy-rich state like ours.”

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