The Trump administration scrapped a landmark climate change rule on Wednesday that was designed to lessen America’s dependence on coal-fired power plants.
The Clean Power Plan was one of President Obama’s most iconic environmental efforts, and has been derided by Republicans since its inception.
“Americans want reliable energy that they can afford,” Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Andrew Wheeler said at a press conference on Wednesday, adding that “fossil fuels will continue to be an important part of the mix.”
Wheeler, once a lobbyist for the country’s largest coal mining company, replaced the Obama-era rule with one that encourages the revamping of aging, polluting power plants. Under the Clean Power Plan, these facilities would be phased out.
Environmental groups and Democrats have predictably denounced the new rule, saying that by extending the lifetimes of coal-fired power plants, clean energy will continue to be cannibalized.
The plan also prevents the federal government from setting broad emissions limits. Now, the EPA can only regulate “inside the fence line of” plants on a piecemeal basis, reported the Wall Street Journal.
“As rising temperatures, surging seas and record-breaking natural disasters ravage communities everywhere, the Trump Administration continues to ignore science and put the interests of polluters ahead of the American people, by rolling back countless life-saving environmental protections,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
The Environmental Defense Fund, a climate change-focused nonprofit, called it “a do-nothing replacement that includes no real limits on climate pollution, and could actually lead to increased health-harming pollution in many parts of the country.”
The Clean Power Plan has been a target of the Trump administration from the start. In 2017, former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt announced that he had “set in motion an assessment of the previous administration’s questionable legal basis in our proposed repeal of [the plan].”
During a public comment period held by the EPA in 2017, Americans strongly voiced their opposition to the rule.
The Wall Street Journal noted that environmental groups will likely attempt to restore the Clean Power Plan, which was legally challenged by 28 states and the fossil fuel industry, and remained stuck in the Supreme Court.
The new rule is slated to take effect within 30 days.