Affordable Clean Energy proposal: thousands of people will die

Affordable Clean Energy proposal: thousands of people will die

The Environmental Protection Agency has released the details of its plan to replace President Obama’s signature climate change policy, the Clean Power Plan, and it’s pretty much what we expected: a tepid pledge to fight climate change that’s actually a coal bailout.

The 2015 Obama-era rule aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, now the second-largest source of greenhouse gases in the United States. The CPP gave 47 states unique emissions targets while leaving it up to them how to get there. The EPA invoked health provisions of the Clean Air Act to make this rule, arguing that cutting greenhouse gas emissions would also limit other pollutants. That, in turn, would avert 3,600 premature deaths, 90,000 asthma attacks in children, and 1,700 heart attacks each year.

However, 24 states sued to block the rule, arguing that the EPA overstepped its legal bounds. And in 2016, the Supreme Court put a stay on the CPP to allow the lawsuits to proceed.

Then Donald Trump became president and declared his love of coal and hatred of all things Obama. Even during his campaign, he made it clear that one of his top priorities would be to tear up Obama’s climate policies like the Clean Power Plan. And two months after taking office, he signed an executive order to start rolling it back (along with various other regulations on methane emissions and carbon standards for new coal plants).

But unlike Trump’s decision to begin to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord, something he could do unilaterally, the EPA is required by law to regulate carbon dioxide. So if the agency wants to toss out the CPP, it still needs to come up with a regulation that limits greenhouse gases. Otherwise, the EPA would need to launch a years-long campaign to change the underlying law, which it might lose.

Today, we’re finally seeing the details of the replacement plan. Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is calling it the Affordable Clean Energy proposal.

Repeal and replace. Sound familiar? As Vox’s David Roberts noted, the process of undoing the Clean Power Plan echoes the fight to repeal Obamacare. And like the health care repeal fight, it’s shaping up to be a huge mess.

For the new proposal to stand, it has to be just as good as or better than the one it replaces in order to comply with the law. But it’s much weaker than the rule it’s replacing, so the EPA is arguing for a cost-benefit calculation that justifies a relaxed standard. Meanwhile, environmental activists and some states see this as a vulnerability and are girding themselves for a legal fight.

Source: Vox

Date: October 2018

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