The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Wednesday it is upending coal power plant emissions standards established by former U.S. President Barack Obama in a bid to curb climate change.
The Clean Power Plan were established to help wean the U.S. off coal and move the country toward renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, as well as cleaner natural gas.
The Trump administration maintains the Affordable Clean Energy final rule will reduce emissions, but the agency determined it could result in up to 1,400 more early deaths per year by 2030 from air pollution compared to the Obama-era standards.
EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, signed off on the new rule, which the agency said would allow "the economy to continue to grow without overburdensome regulation."
Obama's regulations were stayed by the Supreme Court in 2016 following legal action from multiple Republican state attorneys general and industry advocacy groups. But prior to the decision some power plants had already begun to work toward meeting the Obama-era standards.
U.S. President Donald Trump's plan lifts some restrictions on coal-fired power plants, allowing states to determine their own emissions stands for coal plants, and further permitting the jurisdictions to ease regulations for power plants that are in need of upgrades.
Trump has long derided what he and Republicans call a "war on coal" fueled in part by Obama's plan. But the growing shift away from coal is also based on the declining costs associated with cleaner alternatives such as natural gas, wind and solar power.
The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, called Trump's plan "a Trojan Horse" that would set back efforts to fight climate change.
Rhea Suh, the council's president, said it "would give polluters free rein and doom future generations to a dangerously hostile world."
"That’s an approach America can ill afford," she said in a statement, vowing legal action. "Strengthening the Clean Power Plan is our best option for cleaning up the dirty power plants that make up more than a third of our carbon footprint. Trump should make that plan stronger, not scrap it."
By Michael Hernandez in Washington