The Trump administration will issue a proposed rule Tuesday to end the controversial Clean Power Plan (CPP), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt said Monday.
"Tomorrow in Washington, D.C., I'll be signing a proposed rule to withdraw the so-called Clean Power Plan of the past administration and thus begin the effort to withdraw that rule," Pruitt told coal miners gathered in Hazard, KY.
The Obama-era EPA overstepped its legal authority when it issued the CPP, which established for the first time federal limits on carbon emissions for the nation's power plants, Pruitt said.
"When you think about what that rule meant, it was about picking winners and losers. Regulatory power should not be used by any regulatory body to pick winners and losers. The past administration [was] using every bit of power and authority to use the EPA to pick winners and losers and how we generate electricity in this country. That's wrong.
"What we ought to be about as an agency -- this is not the most profound statement you may hear this year -- regulations ought to make things regular and work with folks all over the country and say 'how do we achieve better outcomes with industry?'
"...When you think about the Clean Power Plan, it wasn't about regulating to make things regular. It was truly about regulating to pick winners and losers and they interpreted the best system of emission reduction is generating electricity not using fossil fuels. Rule of law matters. Because rule of law is something that allows you to know what is expected of you. When you have a regulation passed inconsistent with the statute creates uncertainty."
The Obama administration unveiled the final version of the CPP in August 2015. The plan, which embraces renewables, solar and wind power, but not so much natural gas, calls for states to reduce emissions by 32% below 2005 levels by 2030.
Under the CPP, states must develop and implement plans that ensure power plants in their state -- either as single plants or as a collective group -- achieve goals for reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions between 2022 and 2029, and final CO2 emission performance rates by 2030. The CPP gives states the option of choosing between either an emissions standards plan or a state measures plan to reduce emissions. They would also have the option of trading emissions rate credits with other states.
Environmental groups were sharp in their denunciation of Pruitt's announcement.
"This assault on the Clean Power Plan won’t just dial up climate pollution -- it will hurt our economy by slowing the expansion of clean energy jobs while also increasing healthcare costs and leading to thousands of lives lost," said the Environmental Defense Fund in a Monday morning email to thousands of supporters.
Repeal of the CPP has been a goal of the Trump administration for some time. In July the Trump administration, following through on a promise to cut regulations, including many made during the Obama era, unveiled plans to repeal or scuttle hundreds of existing or planned rules across the federal government, including many that affect the oil and natural gas industry. Among the 63 long-term actions required of the EPA, the Trump administration proposed that the agency withdraw the CPP "on the grounds that it exceeds the statutory authority provided under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act."
Repeal of the CPP would dovetail neatly with the Department of Energy's (DOE) recently proposed notice of proposed rulemaking to implement reforms on the reliability and resiliency of the electricity grid -- changes that, according to some industry groups, would benefit coal and nuclear at the expense of natural gas.
In a report released in August, DOE concluded that cheap and abundant natural gas is the primary driver of coal and nuclear power plant retirements in the United States. Full implementation of the CPP would place additional pressure on coal-fired generation, according to the report.
The CPP has been on hold pending legal challenges working their way through the courts. Twenty-seven states -- among them Oklahoma, where Pruitt was then the state's attorney general -- have sued over the CPP, arguing that it is an overreach by EPA.