BILLINGS — The Trump administration is advancing its plan to replace the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s efforts against global warming with a new rule expected to be friendlier to the coal industry.
The Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday that it sent the new rule to the White House for review. The document itself was not released, but Trump has been outspoken in his desire to prop up the ailing U.S. coal industry by rolling back what he considers burdensome regulations.
The EPA said it would seek public comment on the matter only after the White House review is completed.
The submission of the rule to the White House on Monday coincided with former coal industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler’s first day at the helm of the EPA, following last week’s resignation of Administrator Scott Pruitt amid multiple ethics scandals.
Wheeler, like Pruitt, has expressed skepticism about the extent to which coal, oil and gas emissions drive climate change, something that mainstream science says is indisputable fact.
EPA spokeswoman Molly Block said in a statement that the agency intends to move expeditiously on the replacement rule. But Block did not provide a timeline.
Nearly 200 countries have committed to combat global warming by reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
Obama sought to cut U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, largely by reducing pollution from coal-fired power plants. The emission cuts also were expected to improve public health by eliminating 90,000 asthma attacks and up to 3,600 premature deaths a year.
But under Trump, the EPA declared last year that the old rule exceeded federal law by setting emissions standards that power plants could not reasonably meet. In December, the agency announced it would craft a replacement plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions from the electric utility sector.
The U.S. Supreme Court had put Obama’s plan on hold in 2016 following a legal challenge by industry and coal-friendly states.
Nevertheless the Obama plan helped drive a wave of retirements of coal-fired plants, which also have been squeezed by competition from cheap natural gas and renewable power and energy conservation mandates adopted by many states.
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