The Trump Administration has proposed to replace the nation’s Clean Power Plan, initiated under the Obama administration, with a regulation the EPA is calling Affordable Clean Energy (ACE). But don’t be tricked, though this plan comes under the guise of making coal-fired power plants more efficient, the administration is really just trying to keep coal in the picture, as evidenced by the fact that the White House press release for the plan doesn’t even speak of climate change once.
"The Trump administration clearly wants to avoid doing anything about climate change and to avoid it at all costs," said Joe Goffman, former Senior Counsel in the Office of Air and Radiation at the EPA.
The coal industry has faced a natural decline and experts say despite Trump’s attempts to revive it, coal is on the way out. Twenty years ago, the U.S. generated over half of its power from coal power plants; that number is now down to less than a third. That doesn’t bode well for an administration betting on coal.
The Clean Power Plan intended to reduce carbon pollution from the U.S. power sector by 32% below 2005 levels by the year 2030. The new ACE regulation will instead reduce carbon emissions by only 1%, as compared to doing nothing. ACE will give each state the responsibility to make their coal power plants more efficient via a list of engineering changes.
One example of such a change could be requiring coal plants to do a better of job insulating the heat they generate when burning coal, allowing the plants to generate more electricity while using fewer fossil fuels. This, however, doesn’t do much to actually limit the CO2 emissions of the plants, points out Ann Carlson, director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the UCLA School of Law.
But according to Carlson, the chances of ACE actually becoming a reality aren’t fixed. To get the regulation through, the EPA must first hold a 60-day comment period during which anyone may give opinions or thoughts regarding the plan. Likely during this time, the EPA will also be slammed with lawsuits for failing to adequately regulate greenhouse gases (according to a Supreme Court case in 2017, the EPA "has the responsibility to require significant reductions in carbon dioxide,” and not doing so can be considered illegal). Even after all that, it could be over a year or more before ACE comes to fruition. If you feel strongly about carbon emissions and the impact that they have on our planet, make sure to make your voice heard during the comment period.