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climate change

The Trump Administration Is Officially Repealing the Clean Power Plan

Scott Pruitt announced his agency is rolling back President Obama’s signature policy, which aimed to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Louise Matsakis

Image: Shutterstock

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At an event in Kentucky on Monday, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt announced that the Trump administration will begin repealing President Obama's 2015 Clean Power Plan, a signature policy that aimed to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Rolling back the plan makes it increasingly difficult for the United States to fulfill its promises as part of the Paris Agreement, which Trump withdrew from in January.

"The war on coal is over," Pruitt told the crowd in Hazard, Kentucky. "Tomorrow in Washington, DC, I will be signing a proposed rule to roll back the Clean Power Plan." The repeal proposal will be filed in the Federal Register on October 10. Pruitt's announcement follows Trump's March executive order designed to begin the rewriting of the Clean Power Plan.

Pruitt made the same arguments for repealing the plan on Monday as he has made in lawsuits for years. He believes that the Obama administration's plan overstepped the bounds of its legal authority. The Supreme Court blocked the legislation from taking effect last year while lawsuits alleging it exceeded legal limits were examined.

"Under the interpretation proposed in this notice, the CPP [Clean Power Plan] exceeds the EPA's statutory authority and would be repealed," according to a copy of the repeal proposal leaked to several news outlets. The proposal says the EPA has yet to decide if new rules regulating greenhouse gases will be put in place. The Supreme Court has ruled that the EPA is obligated to regulate the emission of carbon dioxide.

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Obama's EPA created the Clean Power Plan by expanding the 1963 Clean Air Act, which already regulates emissions of pollutants, such as mercury, to cover carbon dioxide as well. The plan's goal was to cut carbon pollution from fossil fuel power plants like coal and oil by 32 percent by 2030. The EPA gave each state reduction targets. The plan was designed to force states to save the environment by investing in renewable energies like wind and solar, or setting up cap and trade systems.

When the Clean Power Plan was first passed, it immediately drew criticism from fossil fuel interests, Republican politicians, and conservative think tanks, who said it "grossly exceeds the statutory authority of the EPA."

The Obama administration argued it only accelerated the end of industries like coal, which were already in decline. Former EPA officials also argued it had the potential to usher in tens of thousands of new jobs, in fields like like wind and solar. It also said that the potential savings on human health and climate change were not minimal. The EPA estimated that funds saved from fighting the effects of climate change, like severe storms, could be close to $20 billion.

Now, we likely won't get to see how those potential benefits could have played out. Despite the fact that 70 percent of Americans agree with the goals of the Clean Power Plan, the Trump administration will repeal it, and other policies designed to combat climate change.

The review proposal still has to go through a formal public comment period before it's finalized, which could potentially take months.

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