The Trump administration on Tuesday proposed replacing the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of former President Barack Obama's regulatory efforts to combat climate change, in a move critics said would have dire environmental and health consequences.
The proposal released by the Environmental Protection Agency would grant states the ability to write their own weaker regulations for the plants and give them the ability to seek permission to opt out of regulations on power plant emissions.
The effort to re-write the plan is the latest move by the EPA under President Donald Trump, a Republican, to roll back environmental protections put in place by Obama, Trump's Democratic predecessor.
Trump, who is scheduled to hold a rally on Tuesday in West Virginia, a top coal-producing state, has vowed to end what he has called “the war on coal” and boost domestic fossil fuels production.
“Today’s proposal provides the states and regulated community the certainty they need to continue environmental progress while fulfilling President Trump’s goal of energy dominance,” EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement announcing the proposal.
The Clean Power Plan (CPP), which was finalized by the EPA under Obama in 2015, sought to reduce emissions from power plants to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 but never took effect. The Supreme Court put the brakes on it in 2016 after energy-producing states sued the EPA, saying it had exceeded its legal reach.
Democrats and environmental organizations slammed the Trump administration's proposal as a handout to the U.S. fossil fuel industry at the expense of Americans' wellbeing, the environment and other energy savings.
“It will have serious consequences for the health of the public and our planet,” Democratic U.S. Senator Tom Carper said in a statement.
The move to let states opt out of emissions regulations will likely face staunch opposition from electricity industry associations because in many states the CPP's limits on emissions have already been met.
In addition, green groups are likely to mount a court fight against the provision that would allow states to opt out.
EPA's proposal is open for a public comment period, with a final rule expected later this year.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Writing by Susan Heavey and Tim Ahmann; Editing by Susan Thomas)