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EPA Announces Repeal of Major Obama-Era Carbon Emissions Rule

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Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency: "The war on coal is over." - GABRIELLA DEMCZUK/THE NEW YORK TIMES
  • Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times
  • Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency: "The war on coal is over."

By LISA FRIEDMAN and BRAD PLUMER
© 2017 New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced Monday that it would take formal steps to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature policy to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, setting up a bitter fight over the future of the United States’ efforts to tackle global warming.

At an event in eastern Kentucky, Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said that his predecessors had departed from regulatory norms in crafting the Clean Power Plan, which was finalized in 2015 and would have pushed states to move away from coal in favor of sources of electricity that produce fewer carbon emissions.

“The war on coal is over,” Pruitt said. “Tomorrow in Washington, D.C., I will be signing a proposed rule to roll back the Clean Power Plan. No better place to make that announcement than Hazard, Kentucky.”

The repeal proposal, which will be filed in the Federal Register on Tuesday, fulfills a promise President Donald Trump made to eradicate his predecessor’s environmental legacy. Eliminating the Clean Power Plan makes it less likely the United States can fulfill its promise as part of the Paris climate agreement to ratchet down emissions that are warming the planet and contributing to heat waves and sea-level rise. Trump has vowed to abandon that international accord.

In announcing the repeal, Pruitt made many of the same arguments that he had made for years to Congress and in lawsuits: that the Obama administration exceeded its legal authority in an effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. (Last year, the Supreme Court blocked the rule from taking effect while courts assessed those lawsuits.) A leaked draft of the repeal proposal asserts that the country would save $33 billion by not complying with the regulation and rejects the health benefits the Obama administration had calculated from the original rule.

While many states are already shifting away from coal power for economic reasons, experts say scrapping the rule could slow that transition.

Environmental groups and several states plan to challenge the repeal proposal in federal courts, arguing against Pruitt’s move on both scientific and economic grounds.