• Jorge Velasco

President Trump to Rescind Signature Obama-Era Environmental Policies

Updated: Jun 9, 2020

In the latest of his Obama policy reversals, President Trump and the Environmental Protection Agency will cut the “Clean Power Plan”, and replace it with a more coal-friendly plan, thus, making good on his repeated promise to revitalize the coal industry. The new plan will empower the states to regulate emissions of over 300 U.S. based coal-burning plants, thereby slowing their closure.

Some conservatives, including those close to President Trump, have said that the complete elimination of EPA oversight could help the energy markets to flourish. However, the Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency (2007) that EPA regulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is necessary. As a result, the Clean Power Plan was born.

The administration is playing a balancing act with the new regulations, trying to minimize any regulation or overreach, while still meeting the government mandates established in the Clean Air Act. It is safe to say that environmental champions will begin lawsuits as soon as possible, but the new plan is designed to withstand such attacks.

While some of the specifics remain unreleased, the general idea is that coal-burning plants will increase their hours, become more efficient, decrease their expenses, and aid the United States’ economy. Administration officials estimate that an efficiency gain of about 4% is possible through this new plan.

President Trump tweeted on Saturday:

“America is blessed with extraordinary energy abundance, including more than 250 years worth of beautiful clean coal. We have ended the war on coal, and will continue to work to promote American energy dominance!” – Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

The most obvious effect of this new plan is the amount of greenhouse gas emissions released into the air. Let’s take a look at the numbers:

By 2030 under the Clean Power Plan:

  1. Carbon Dioxide Emissions cut by 19%

  2. Sulfur Dioxide Emissions cut by 24%

  3. Nitrogen Oxide Emissions cut by 22%

  4. Mercury Emissions cut by 16% to 17%

By 2030 under Trump’s new plan:

  1. Carbon Dioxide Emissions cut by .7% to 1.5%

  2. Sulfur Dioxide Emissions cut by 1% to 2%

  3. Nitrogen Oxide Emissions cut by 1% to 2%

  4. Mercury Emissions cut by .5% to 1%

While early critics cite mainly these environmental impacts, the new plan is tailored specifically to address what many conservatives have seen as government overreach in the energy industry.

One Senior EPA official addressed the new plan, saying, “We don’t believe that is our role.” They continued, “[This] is about doing more with what you have, and then letting the market trends do what they’re going to do anyway.”

Even though the apparent environmental impact is large, the new plan is in line with the administration’s deregulation and economy-first policies. The new plan is set to be released within the next week, even as soon as Tuesday while the president is visiting coal-reliant West Virginia. This is a huge win for the coal industry, potentially extending factory lives by years; yet, the ever decreasing prices and increasing popularity of green power may offset this new policy.

Only time will tell.