EPA finalizes power plant rules to replace Obama's signature climate change policy

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The Trump administration on Wednesday officially replaced the only federal program created to combat climate change by lowering carbon dioxide emissions from coal-burning power plants.

North Carolina has a history with this kind of energy, after a 2014 spill from a plant in Eden sent over 30,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River.

On Wednesday the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did just that. "The ACE rule will allow the Commonwealth to customize its approach to reducing emissions while reducing the economic hardships that would have resulted from a "one-size-fits-all" approach called for in the Clean Power Plan".

Unlike that plan, Wheeler said the new rule "adheres to the four corners of the Clean Air Act". At the time, Obama and the EPA projected that the plan would result in $26 billion to $45 billion net climate and health benefits.

Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler says it's a sign that "fossil fuels will continue to be an important part of the mix" in the US energy supply.

The Clean Power Plan itself was suspended by the Supreme Court after it was challenged by hundreds of companies and 28 states.

The prospect that conservative states might encourage upgrades to their coal plants has prompted concerns about the possibility of an "emissions rebound", in which upgraded coal facilities would run more frequently, pushing up overall emissions. The problem for the coal industry was the initial Obama EPA regulations aimed at coal power plants started being proposed in 2011, and surely the 2009 carbon endangerment finding had an impact on industry decisions as well.

The EPA move follows pledges by candidate and then President Donald Trump to rescue the US coal industry, which saw near-record numbers of plant closings previous year in the face of competition from cheaper natural gas and renewables.

Once fully implemented, he said, the rule is expected to lower carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity generation sector by as much as 35% by 2030 from 2005 levels.

Where the new plan focuses on what can be achieved at individual coal plants, the Clean Power Plan it is replacing aimed to drive broader changes in the USA electric mix and threatened to spur a wave of coal plant closures.

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That statement will likely be put to the test as influential environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council gear up for a court battle.

The Obama-era plan sought to fight climate change by prodding coal-fired power plants out of the nation's electrical grid.

Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., who was at the EPA for the announcement, said it would ensure that the mines in her state will stay open and that coal will continue to "keep our lights on and our house on".

Presidential candidate and Washington Governor Jay Inslee wrote in a statement that, "Donald Trump's undying loyalty to coal CEOs is literally killing Americans".

That interpretation would limit the "best system of emission reduction" required by the Clean Air Act to measures that can be applied to an individual source.

The Trump administration on Wednesday issued a new carbon emissions rule that replaces the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

President Trump has thrown his latest lifeline to the ailing coal industry, significantly weakening one of former President Obama's key policies to address climate change. "It imposes only modest requirements on coal plants".

While Trump has vowed to stop the "war on coal", experts say the closure of hundreds of coal-fired plants is really driven by economics.

His pledge to roll back regulation for the coal industry helped cement support from owners and workers in the coal industry, and others.

The EPA's final "Affordable Clean Energy" rule is created to pare carbon dioxide emissions by encouraging efficiency upgrades at individual power plants. You'd have to have been insane to invest in coal electricity generation after that.