Following reports that Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will attack the climate again by neutering an Obama-era rule in an effort to revive the dying coal industry, environmental advocacy groups on Wednesday stressed that the march towards a clean energy future is unstoppable.
The proposed change is expected to come in an “energy policy announcement” Thursday from acting EPA Administrator and former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler. According to the New York Times, the move would ease the regulation requiring new coal plants to have carbon dioxide-capturing technology.
From the Times:
Under the Trump administration’s rule, carbon dioxide emissions from new coal plants would not be allowed to exceed 1,900 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of electricity, according to two people knowledgeable about the proposal. That’s compared to the Obama rule, which limited emissions to 1,400 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour.
In addition, CNN notes,
Despite trying for nearly two years to prop up coal by rolling back climate regulations, the industry remains in sharp decline—coal consumption peaked in 2007. The shale boom created a glut of cheap natural gas in America, and the costs to deploy wind and solar continue to plunge.
Given that scenario, “Many utilities continue to drag their feet with respect to renewables, preferring to gravitate first to natural gas power. But investor pressure about climate and financial risk, growing public support for renewables, and the continued declining costs of wind and solar are big reasons why coal is being pushed out of the market,” said Environmental Working Group (EWG) president Ken Cook.
“And no number of regulatory rollbacks or empty campaign promises to coal miners is going to change the move toward clean energy. The only variable now is how quickly the transition to an electric system dominated by renewables will occur,” he added.
News of the expected announcement coincides with a federal report showing that consumption of coal in the U.S. has plummeted to its lowest levels since 1979.
“Coal use is at its lowest level in nearly four decades and the Trump administration can’t stop this country from continuing to move beyond coal,” said Mary Anne Hitt, senior director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.
She said that the data revealed in the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s report “shows major progress for communities across our country who’ve worked feverishly over the past decade to shift America away from dirty, expensive coal plants that poison their communities and add to the climate crisis.”
“It’s also another repudiation of the Trump administration’s agenda,” Hitt said, “which has relentlessly attacked clean air safeguards, denied science, and peddled alternative facts just so its corporate polluter allies can make a buck.”