The Environmental Protection Agency plans to propose the repeal of a sweeping Obama-era rule on power plants meant to curb greenhouse gas emissions, according to a leaked proposal obtained by CNN.
The proposal to repeal the milestone Clean Power Plan could be officially released as early as Tuesday, a source close to the process told CNN.
The text of the proposal says it is the outcome of President Donald Trump’s executive orders calling for the review of the Clean Power Plan and questions the legality of the original rule.
“Under the interpretation proposed in this notice, the CPP exceeds the EPA’s statutory authority and would be repealed,” the proposal reads. “The EPA welcomes comment on the legal interpretation addressed in this proposed rulemaking.”
The proposal also says the EPA has yet to determine whether it will create an additional rule on the regulation of greenhouse gases.
“While we can’t comment on the authenticity of the document, what we can say is that the Obama administration pushed the bounds of their authority so far that the Supreme Court issued a stay – the first in history – to prevent the so-called ‘Clean Power Plan’ from taking effect,” EPA spokesperson Liz Bowman said in a statement to CNN, referring to the high court’s move block the rule from going forward while a challenge from states and the energy industry proceeds. “Any replacement rule that the Trump administration proposes will be done carefully and properly within the confines of the law.”
Bloomberg News first reported on the repeal proposal.
The Clean Power Plan requires states to meet specific carbon emission reduction standards based on their individual energy consumption. The plan also includes an incentive program for states to get a head start on meeting standards on early deployment of renewable energy and low-income energy efficiency.
Under President Barack Obama, the EPA estimated the Clean Power Plan could prevent 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths and 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children.
In April, Trump signed an executive order to review and possibly eliminate the EPA’s plan to cut power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions. The order rescinded previous analysis of the plan’s benefits.
When asked at the time on Fox News about the health consequences of doing away with the Clean Power Plan, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt ducked the question and focused on how the plan would cost jobs. He argued the plan was bureaucratic overreach.
“As much as we want to see progress made with clean air and clean water, with an understanding that we can also grow jobs, we have to do so within the framework of what Congress has passed,” Pruitt said.
Nevertheless former EPA employees have reacted harshly to the planned repeal of the rule. Obama’s EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy, called the proposal “just plain backwards.”
“A proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan without any time line or even a commitment to propose a rule to reduce carbon pollution, isn’t a step forward, it’s a wholesale retreat from EPA’s legal, scientific and moral obligation to address the threats of climate change,” McCarthy said in a statement Friday.
She added, “The Supreme Court has concluded multiple times that EPA is obligated by law to move forward with action to regulate greenhouse gases, but this administration has no intention of following the law. They are denying it just as they are denying the science. They’re using stall tactics to defer action, ignoring the courts and the demands of the American people.”
Douglas Dockery, a department chairman at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a scientist who coauthored some of the most influential studies on air pollution, said in March that Trump’s executive order will ultimately cut short thousands of American lives.
“It’s not about the polar bears,” Dockery told CNN. Burning coal “is affecting people living around power plants and downwind of power plants right now.”
In addition to the Clean Power Plan repeal proposal, the EPA under Trump has delayed and attempted to repeal a handful of other Obama-era regulations. In June, Pruitt sought a two-year pause on a rule to limit methane pollution so the agency could “look broadly” at regulations and review their impact. In August, nine of the 11 judges of the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the EPA must enforce the pollution limits for the oil and gas industry, calling the delay unlawful.
In September, the EPA delayed another Obama-era regulation on chemical plant storage. The rule sought to increase safety at chemical storage facilities in what was a direct response to the fertilizer plant explosion in West Texas in 2013 that killed 15 and injured more than 160. Now the rule isn’t slated to take effect until 2019 in order to allow the agency time to reconsider industry objections.
Pruitt, who filed numerous lawsuits against federal regulations during his time as Oklahoma’s attorney general, has made clear his interest in giving more weight to regulated industries. He has questioned much of the data around environmental regulation and climate change.
“The citizens just don’t trust that EPA is honest with these numbers,” Pruitt told The Wall Street Journal in February. “Let’s get real, objective data, not just do modeling. Let’s vigorously publish and peer-review science. Let’s do honest cost-benefit work. We need to restore the trust.”