June 19, 2019

New EPA Power Plant Rule is a Sham, Science Group Says

Agency Using a Distorted Cost-Benefit Analysis to Justify a Do-Nothing Rule

WASHINGTON (June 19, 2019)—The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released its final Affordable Clean Energy rule, a replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan that will do virtually nothing to curb U.S. power plant carbon emissions, despite the many cost-effective options available, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Below is a statement by Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“The Trump Affordable Clean Energy rule is a sham. It is dangerously irresponsible and completely at odds with the urgent need to address climate change, not to mention the EPA’s mission to protect public health.

“This administration’s strategy is clear: Since the beginning it has taken its marching orders from the fossil fuel industry and launched a broadside attack on climate action and public health protections. From undermining the Clean Power Plan, vehicle fuel economy standards and methane regulations to abandoning the Paris agreement, it is obvious the Trump administration is putting fossil fuel company profits above the interests of the American people.

“By issuing a bare-bones power plant carbon standard primarily focused on small efficiency improvements at coal plants, the EPA is just ticking a box so it can say to a court that it has done something. With the costs of wind, solar power and energy storage falling, the U.S. should double down on clean energy, instead of trying to prop up costly and polluting forms of energy. It is now time to take this reckless administration to court and have a judge end this charade.”

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The Affordable Clean Energy rule includes a revised calculation for the regulation’s costs and benefits that flouts longstanding agency guidance and commonsense economics.

Below is a statement by Rachel Cleetus, lead economist and policy director of the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“The EPA is attempting to justify this woefully weak rule by lowballing the cost of climate impacts and dismissing the benefits of cutting the harmful pollutants like particulate matter that are emitted along with carbon dioxide when power plants burn fossil fuels. This blatantly dishonest tactic has only one purpose: to hide the harm to public health.

“We’ve seen this strategy before, most recently with the administration’s proposal to undermine the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. The EPA is trying to normalize this twisted cost-benefit analysis to make it easier to weaken a range of safeguards under the Clean Air Act and other public health-based laws, including those that would curb global warming emissions.

“But Administrator Wheeler’s crooked math cannot alter fundamental reality: Climate change is costly and dirtier air will harm all of us, especially children, the elderly, and other vulnerable populations.

“This rule will do nothing to stem the overall trend of coal plant retirements which are at an all-time high because of market pressures, including from cheap natural gas. And, despite the administration’s deceptive talking points, it offers no real assistance to workers and communities currently dependent on coal. What it will do is excuse laggard states from taking meaningful action, buying a little more time for straggling polluting power plants to stay on line, with significant implications for public health especially in fenceline communities. And in the process, it will undermine one of the few national policies the United States had to address climate change.”

See the related UCS blog post: “5 Ways the Trump Administration Will Eviscerate Science and Undermine Climate Action in New 'Affordable Clean Energy' Rule.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with people across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.