Burr & Forman

09.6.2018   |   Clean Power Plan, Environmental Law Matters, EPA

Clean Power Plan Rollback Proceeds Despite Reports of Negative Consequences and Questions About the Benefit to Coal Country Economy

The Trump Administration announced a long-awaited proposal to roll back the Obama-era Clean Power Plan late last month.  (Chicago Tribune). The action had been promised by the President and his appointees at EPA, who pursued it despite apparent ironies.

The proposed change was supported by a lengthy analysis prepared by EPA.  (Regulatory Impact Analysis).  Interestingly, the analysis concedes that the rollback will result in an increase in respiratory illnesses and premature deaths associated with easing the air pollution limits the Clean Power Plan would impose.  (N.Y. Times, August 21).  Moreover, Bloomberg reports that statements about adverse climate impacts that EPA had included in an initial draft of the impact analysis were removed before final publication.  (Bloomberg, September 4).

Not surprisingly, recent independent reports generally confirm that potential increases in air pollution will likely affect individual life spans.  (N. Y. Times, August 22  and Environmental Science and Technology Letters).  While the rollback of the Clean Power Plan is ostensibly intended to benefit coal producing parts of the country, another report indicates that changing air standards will likely increase deaths in West Virginia, a major coal-producing state.  (AP News).  And the rollback comes despite at least one recent report indicating that the long-term impacts of the Clean Air Act have helped in reducing pollution by half even though there has been a marked expansion in production at facilities which emit air pollutants.  (Science Daily).

Perhaps the final irony reflects the likelihood of a beneficial impact on the coal industry.  An analysis reflecting comments from Duke Energy indicates that the elimination of the Clean Power Plan will not change the current trend toward the reduction in the use of coal in favor of natural gas and renewable sources.  (Seeking Alpha).

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