The EPA’s move will increase planet-warming carbon emissions at a time when rest of the world is trying to fight climate change.
As major climate change reports recently warned of the extreme dangers of rising carbon emissions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced plans to roll back a 2015 federal clean air rule that requires new coal plants to install emissions-reductions technologies. “This is just one more foolhardy move by a misguided administration that will be judged harshly by future generations,” says David Doniger, director of the Climate & Clean Energy program at NRDC.
The Obama-era rule addressed the significant contribution of coal-burning plants in fueling climate change, determining that carbon capture and storage technology is the minimum action needed to curb planet-warming emissions. The Trump administration’s new proposal sets lower standards for new coal plants, allowing them to be built as long as they have more efficient boilers and related technologies than previous facilities—and allowing them to spew an additional 500 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of electricity.
The move is in line with President Trump’s repeated election pledge to revive the coal industry, which has long been on the decline as companies have moved toward cheaper alternatives like renewables and natural gas. Since taking office, his administration has rolled back multiple climate and health protections—including the landmark Clean Power Plan—in order to benefit the coal industry. Three recent climate change reports—the IPCC report, the Fourth National Climate Assessment, and the Global Carbon Project report—all made clear the need to quickly transition away from fossil fuels in order to limit the worst of global warming.
“The science is clear: Even existing coal plants have no future without carbon capture and storage,” Doniger says. “What we need instead is swift and decisive action to curb dangerous climate change."