The Environmental Protection Agency proposed new regulations for the nation’s coal-burning power plants Tuesday, giving more flexibility to emission control. But many argue the new proposal, which will roll back emission guidelines, threatens the health of thousands.
The Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule, which replaces Obama-era attempts to limit air pollution, provides suggestions for efficiency improvements, leaving the actual regulations up to the state.
“The ACE Rule would restore the rule of law and empower states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide modern, reliable, and affordable energy for all Americans,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a departmental statement. “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.”
The EPA says the ACE Rule will reduce carbon dioxide emissions and provide $400 million in net benefits, but a climate expert told the Associated Press that the plan “probably will make emissions worse.”
According to the EPA’s announcement, the new rule will replace the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which it describes as “overly prescriptive and burdensome.” That plan aimed to reduce the country’s carbon dioxide emissions to 32% below 2005 levels by 2030, Bloomberg reports, but the regulation was put on hold by the Supreme Court in 2016.
Compared to the Clean Power Plan, the ACE Rule would release allow plants to release 12 times the amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over the next decade, The Washington Post reports. Harvard University researchers estimate that the repeal of the Clean Power Plan could lead to 36,000 deaths over a decade due to poor air quality, plus an additional 630,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children in this same time period.
Jerry Brown, governor of California, called the EPA’s proposal a “declaration of war against America and all of humanity,” adding that “truth and common sense will triumph over Trump’s insanity.”
Sens. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) also voiced their dissent on Twitter.
The Trump administration’s move is the latest in efforts to roll back Obama-era actions to combat climate change. Last summer, Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement, following through on campaign promises to aid the coal industry’s revival.