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Trump moves to gut Obama climate policy and bolster the coal industry

Anna M. Phillips, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration Wednesday unveiled its final plan to rewrite a major Obama-era climate change policy, scrapping proposed regulations that would have cracked down on coal-burning power plants.

The administration's plan would gut the so-called Clean Power Plan, President Barack Obama's signature domestic program to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Stalled by the courts, the plan was never enacted.

Under Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency has branded the rewrite as the Affordable Clean Energy rule and designed it to fulfill the president's campaign promise to bring back the coal industry.

The new power plan does away with what had been aggressive nationwide goals for reducing the energy sector's carbon footprint.

It sets no targets, leaving that responsibility to individual states. And it assumes that gradual changes in the energy market will lead to the adoption of cleaner fuels, such that by 2030 carbon emissions from the electricity industry will have fallen 35% from 2005 levels.

Even if greenhouse gas emissions drop to that point, experts say it would not be nearly enough to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels -- the widely agreed-upon threshold for catastrophic effects of climate change.

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The EPA's plan also is expected to result in additional soot and smog-forming emissions. The effects are likely to be the most serious in the Midwest, on the East Coast and in regions downwind from coal-burning power plants.

According to the agency's own analysis, the new rule could lead to more cases of upper respiratory illness and cause an estimated 1,400 premature deaths each year by 2030.

Speaking at a news conference held at the agency's headquarters, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler criticized the Obama administration's plan as government overreach.

"The American public elected a president with a better approach, and today we are fulfilling his directive," Wheeler said. "The Affordable Clean Energy rule gives states the regulatory certainty they need to continue to reduce emissions and provide affordable and reliable energy for all Americans."

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