Visiting Columbus Tuesday, acting administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Andrew Wheeler promoted President Trumps new Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule.
The plan replaces the Obama-era Clean Power Plan (CPP) that failed to get off the ground due to litigation.
Back in 2014, the Obama administration proposed the CPP which would have forced high emission coal-fired power plants to upgrade their power generators to use low-emission or zero-emission generators instead.
It effectively sought to end the use of coal as an energy source, but opponents to that filed lawsuits against the measure. More than two dozen states and other interested parties banded together to oppose the plan.
The CPP would have reduced greenhouse gasses at the cost of expensive upgrades that threatened to close coal fire power plants but the plan was ultimately put on hold by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In another ruling from 2009, the EPA was found to have an obligation to regulate air quality for harmful pollution.
Last week, the Trump administration put forward its plan to abide by that obligation.
“This is very important for the State of Ohio and for the energy production here in Ohio,” said Wheeler. “It is going to allow the states more flexibility.”
Under the new plan, states will set the requirements for coal-fired plants to reach to become more efficient. They will have to do that by coming up with a plan to have coal-fired plants improve their heat rate.
The heat rate is how much heat is needed to generate a unit of power.
However, the EPA is not setting a minimum level of improvement, so states can set a very low bar for the plants to meet in reaching that goal.
“There isn’t a way for you to be more efficient in using dirty-fuel, and that’s exactly what this is; it’s using the same dirty-fuel that’s been polluting our planet,” said Chad Stephens with Sierra Club.
Stephens says this plan is a setback to efforts geared toward reducing the use of coal, and he says it doesn’t take people’s health into account.
According to the EPA, the ACE rule will reduce emissions by 33-34% below 2005 levels by 2030, and it is confident that it will avoid litigation like the CPP.
Ohio’s newest Congressman, Troy Balderson, was at Tuesday’s announcement and acknowledge that the ACE rule does not guarantee that coal-fired power plants are in the clear and that something will have to be done.
“Let the State of Ohio make that plan, and they can decide which plants seem to be running at efficient levels,” said Ohio’s newest U.S. Congressman Troy Balderson.
Wheeler also claimed the ACE rule and allowing states to determine how to best meet the federal guidelines will help keep energy prices down by creating efficiencies.
Meanwhile, Stephens says we all pay a steeper price for damaging the planet by not taking stronger steps in addressing climate change.
This year, the Trump administration has rolled back plans to raise fuel efficiency standards and vehicle emissions limits and more than half of the U.S. carbon footprint for emissions comes from transportation and energy production.
The ACE rule is about to enter a 60 day public comment period. If it is implemented it will take roughly 3 years before states are required to devise their plan to meet EPA goals and get EPA approval.