Days after the Environmental Protection Agency announced a roll-back of regulations on the coal industry, President Donald Trump traveled to West Virginia to deliver the good news.
The commander-in-chief’s initiative to ease corporate restrictions prompted the EPA to create its new Affordable Clean Energy rule, intended to replace the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.
Like other Obama-era environmental protection endeavors, the White House slammed ACE’s predecessor as “overly prescriptive and burdensome.” The Clean Power Plan would have set a 2030 deadline for powerplants to cut their emissions by a rough third.
Under Trump’s guidance, the Affordable Clean Energy rule would effectively strip the federal government of its ability to regulate the energy industry. Instead, responsibility is passed off to individual states, which are encouraged to make their own plans to combat pollution.
Big Rally tonight in West Virginia. Patrick Morrisey is running a GREAT race for U.S. Senate. I have done so much for West Virginia, against all odds, and having Patrick, a real fighter, by my side, would make things so much easier. See you later. CLEAN COAL!!!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 21, 2018
ACE also eases back permit requirements that go into effect “if a project is predicted to cause a significant net increase in a facility’s actual annual emissions.” That, says The Verge, means less oversight for coal plans.
The rules and rollbacks were criticized by Democrats, including Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.
“The fingerprints of the coal industry are all over this plan,” Healey said. “The entire proposal deserves to be tossed in a recycling bin, but knowing the EPA’s current leadership, I’m sure they don’t have one.”
An August 21 article from the New York Times shows what damage the rescission could cause. According to the administration’s own analysis, the Affordable Clean Energy plan could lead to as many as 1,400 premature deaths per year. Along with heightened instances of infant mortality, an increase in ‘extremely fine particulate matter’ floating around the atmosphere would boost incidences of heart and lung disease.
The EPA brushed off criticism of its plan, saying other regulations would work to combat more emissions. And on Tuesday, President Trump did little besides sing the coal industry’s praises.
“We love clean, beautiful West Virginia coal,” Trump said, speaking to a crowd in West Virginia. “And you know, that’s indestructible stuff. In times of war, in times of conflict, you can blow up those windmills, they fall down real quick.
“You can blow up pipelines, they go like this,” Trump said, gesticulating. “You can do a lot of things to those solar panels, but you know what you can’t hurt? Coal.”
While Trump fawned over fossil fuels, the administration’s technical analysis suggested that ACE’s implementation would nullify the health gains brought by tough and yet-untouched rules.
Critics of the administration and its nigh-nonexistent environmental protection efforts have said the rollback could jeopardize the global fight against climate change.
“The Trump administration sees political value in this rollback, but our health and the economic promise of clean energy is at stake,” said former Vice President Al Gore in a statement.
Responding to naysayers like Gore, EPA acting administrator Andrew Wheeler said that states are bound to make the best decisions.
“We are proposing a better plan,” Wheeler said of ACE. “It respects the rule of law and will enable states to build affordable, clean, reliable energy portfolios.”