WASHINGTON (December 6, 2018)—Acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler today announced a proposal to roll back power plant carbon standards, set in 2015, that had required lowered carbon dioxide emissions from new, modified and reconstructed coal-fired power plants. The previous standard set a limit for new plants of no more than 1,400 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour (MWh). Multiple news reports indicate that the revised standards would allow those plants to emit up to 1,900 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour, eliminating any incentive for them to reduce emissions by taking steps such as installing carbon capture and storage—a change from the previous standard.
Below is a statement by Rachel Cleetus, policy director for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“Acting Administrator Wheeler today continued the Trump administration’s shameful rampage against climate and clean energy policies. Let’s be clear: New conventional coal-fired power plants are simply not a smart bet in today’s power market dominated by cleaner generation sources and weakening carbon pollution standards for new plants will not alter that basic fact.
“Still, this is an especially galling move, coming on the heels of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, an authoritative scientific report from 13 federal agencies, including the EPA, which documents the toll that climate impacts are already taking on our economy, infrastructure and health—a toll which will worsen as heat-trapping emissions rise.
“The ongoing trend away from coal toward cleaner forms of electricity generation has already led to a 28 percent drop in US power sector carbon emissions since 2005, a trend Mr. Wheeler ironically took credit for just a couple of months ago. We now need to accelerate this clean energy momentum to meet climate goals.
“Today’s announcement is yet another doomed attempt by the Trump administration to prop up the coal industry. Make no mistake, despite the rhetoric that accompanied today’s announcement, this has nothing to do with promoting the public interest.
“If the administration is serious about helping coal-dependent communities, it should instead be investing in creating new economic opportunities, so people all across the country can reap the benefits of a clean energy transition. And if it was serious about protecting clean air, clean water and public health, it would not be trying to push for more conventional coal-fired power, the most polluting source of electricity, linked to asthma, cancer, heart and lung ailments, neurological problems, acid rain, climate change, and other severe environmental and public health impacts.
“Mr. Wheeler continues to operate as the coal lobbyist he used to be, flagrantly disregarding his actual job as acting administrator for the EPA, an agency whose mission is to protect public health.”