Sunday, 26 May, 2019

New EPA proposal aimed at helping coal industry

Donald Trump models a hard hat in support of the miners during his rally at the Charleston Civic Center on Charleston Mark Lyons Getty Images FILE
Sandy Nunez | 09 December, 2018, 02:25

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed rolling back a regulation for coal plants that would allow new plants a lower standard on carbon emissions.

The federal Energy Information Administration reports US coal consumption has declined over the last decade and this year is expected to be at its lowest level in 39 years.

Americans are consuming less coal in 2018 than at any time since Jimmy Carter's presidency, a federal report said Tuesday, as cheap natural gas and other rival sources of energy frustrate the Trump administration's pledges to revive the USA coal industry.

Although the Obama rule regulations did not directly prohibit the construction of new coal power plants, such carbon emission caps were an effective prohibition.

Sen. Tom Carper released a statement December 6 regarding the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to ease carbon dioxide limits placed on new coal-fired power plants.

The EPA will collect public comments on the proposal for 60 days and plans to hold a public hearing on the proposed rule change.

"This administration cares about action and results, not talks and wishful thinking", he said.

Wheeler argued the proposal would not boost USA greenhouse emissions but would actually help drive them down by encouraging US investment in new energy technologies, which could then be exported.

Andrew Wheeler speaks to staff at the Environmental Protection Agency headquarters
Mark Wilson Getty Images FILE

"Today's proposal is nothing more than another thoughtless attempt by the Trump Administration to prop up their backwards and false narrative about reviving coal at the expense of science, public safety, and reality", said Mary Anne Hitt, senior director of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign.

"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".

Trump's agenda to encourage more fossil fuels use clashes with a congressionally mandated government report that came out last month saying climate change is driven mainly by human activity and will cost the USA economy hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century. But he added "a lot of the media's focused on is the worst-case scenario". There's one bright spot in all this and it is that coal demand in the United States has fallen by 40 percent, 40 percent because it's outdated, it's dirty, and it's less efficient, so even though they're repealing this rule and putting their new let's pollute more rule in place, there actually are no new coal fired power plants that this rule could apply to at least as it stands right now. USA coal demand has been falling since 2007 in the face of competition from increasingly abundant and affordable natural gas and renewable energy, such as solar and wind power.

"We are not picking winners and losers here", he said.

But miners, oil drillers, and ranchers in some Western states have said the plan unnecessarily hurt economic development.

Despite some fiery rhetoric from president Donald Trump in support of the domestic coal industry, there is now only a single coal-fire plant under construction, with several other projects mothballed.

Jay Duffy, a lawyer with the Clean Air Task Force environmental nonprofit, called the level-playing field argument of the administration and its supporters "laughable".

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