Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt has told coal miners in Kentucky he will move to repeal a rule limiting greenhouse-gas emissions from existing power plants, saying “The war against coal is over.”
According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, Mr Pruitt said his agency would publish the new proposed rule to withdraw former President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.
A 43-page draft of the proposal obtained by The Washington Post argued the agency overstepped its legal authority in seeking to force utilities to reduce carbon emissions outside their actual facilities to meet federal emissions targets.
The draft did not offer a replacement plan for regulating emissions of carbon dioxide, which the Supreme Court ruled the EPA is obligated to do. Instead, the EPA said it planned to seek “public input on how best to cut emissions from natural-gas and coal-fired power plants”.
Reaction to Pruitt’s announcement was divided, with environmental and public health advocates decrying it while industry groups largely welcomed the move.
“With this news, Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt will go down in infamy for launching one of the most egregious attacks ever on public health, our climate, and the safety of every community in the United States,” Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said.
“He’s proposing to throw out a plan that would prevent thousands of premature deaths and tens of thousands of childhood asthma attacks every year.
On the other side, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association chief executive Jim Matheson said removing the regulation would provide his members with the flexibility to use their existing plants to provide “reliable, affordable power” to local customers.
“That’s what we’re really looking for, is flexibility so they can meet their individual consumers’ needs,” Mr Matheson said.
The EPA’s announcement has brought promises of even more legal fights ahead. Attorneys general in multiple states have vowed to challenge the Trump administration’s decision. A 2009 EPA determination is still in place finding that carbon dioxide constitutes a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, meaning the EPA would have to justify how it is complying with that finding as it rolls back the existing regulation.