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EPA Roll-Back of Clean Power Plan Called "Unlawful"

The Environmental Protection Agency's new plan would allow states to determine how much carbon pollution their coal-fired power plants can emit, and some could increase pollution levels. (pxhere)
The Environmental Protection Agency's new plan would allow states to determine how much carbon pollution their coal-fired power plants can emit, and some could increase pollution levels. (pxhere)
August 22, 2018

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The Environmental Protection Agency's plan to weaken one of the Obama administration's signature environmental proposals would violate the Clean Air Act, some advocacy groups say.

The goal of the Clean Power Plan is to reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 32 percent. The EPA's own estimates said it would have provided $45 billion a year in climate and public-health benefits. However, Patrick Grenter, senior campaign representative at the Sierra Club in Pennsylvania, said the changes - unveiled Tuesday by interim EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist - trade people's lives and health to benefit coal companies.

"There's no justification in science, there's no justification in any sort of legal or technical grounding, and there's certainly no justification through any lens of public health," he said.

Trump administration officials have called the Clean Power Plan illegal and say the new plan would achieve some of the same benefits while allowing states greater flexibility. The EPA acknowledged that its plan will increase pollution, leading to as many as 1,400 premature deaths a year.

Grenter said he sees passing the federal government's obligation to deal with the climate crisis on to the states as a giant step backward.

"It pauses emission standards for dirty, polluting coal plants across the country," he said, "and will actually allow some plants to increase their pollution levels, erasing much of the progress that we've made over the past several years."

Although the Clean Power Plan faced court challenges and didn't go into effect, 25 states are on track to beat its carbon-reduction goals and 10 states, including Pennsylvania, are close to meeting theirs.

Grenter said the EPA's plan won't save the coal industry, either. He noted that the public supports the goals of the Clean Power Plan, and the power sector itself is increasingly committed to cleaner, more renewable energy generation.

"We're going to move forward," he said. "We're going to shut down coal plants, we're going to de-carbonize our economy, clean up our air, clean up our water - just as we have been for decades now."

The public has 60 days to comment on the new EPA proposal. Environmental groups say they'll go to court if necessary to stop the administration from putting the plan into action.

The EPA proposal is online at epa.gov.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA