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Critics: Clean Power Plan Replacement Would Weaken Air Protections

The 2015 Clean Power Plan was projected to cut carbon emissions to 19 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. (x1klima/Flickr)
The 2015 Clean Power Plan was projected to cut carbon emissions to 19 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. (x1klima/Flickr)
September 6, 2018

BISMARCK, N.D. – The public can now comment on the Trump administration's proposal to replace the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era rule aimed at drastically cutting carbon emissions from coal power plants.

Under what's being called the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, states would come up with their own reduction goals and submit their plans within three years to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Wayde Schafer, a conservation organizer with the Sierra Club Dacotah Chapter, says the Clean Power Plan had specific goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in each state, but this new proposal does away with that.

"Coal producing states like North Dakota are obviously going to not have as stringent safeguards as states that don't,” he points out. “You really need a balanced plan, and this certainly isn't a balanced plan."

Schafer maintains a nationwide plan makes more sense because air doesn't stop at state borders.

North Dakota has seven coal fired power plants and ranked ninth in coal production in 2016. The 2015 Clean Power Plan was put on hold by the U.S. Supreme Court and has not yet taken effect.

Janet McCabe, a senior law fellow at the Environmental Law and Policy Center, is a former EPA assistant administrator who worked on the Clean Power Plan.

She's concerned the new proposal would delay implementing meaningful air quality improvements in a number of ways, including changing the way an older coal plant's remaining life is factored into how it should be handled.

"The proposal gives the states, really, ultimate discretion to require nothing at all,” she points out. “What this rule would allow is for a state to say, 'Well, given the remaining useful life of this plant, it doesn't make sense to require it to do anything.'"

McCabe notes the Affordable Clean Energy plan would cut emissions, at most, to 1.5 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The Clean Power Plan was projected to cut emissions by 19 percent.

McCabe notes public comments, which will be accepted through Oct. 30, are important to the rule making process.

"When I was at EPA, every single rule I worked on got better between proposal and final because of comments that we got,” she points out. “And those are important expressions from taxpayers in this country about what they feel their government should do, to protect them or to stay out of the way."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND