EPA concedes that achieving Obama’s plan to cut carbon pollution would have cost very little but have huge benefits

Everything Trump said about the Paris climate deal was a lie. His own EPA just confirmed it. By JOE ROMM, on Think Progress, 23 Aug 2018

President Trump during a political rally in Charleston, West Virginia on August 21, 2018. CREDIT: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Everything President Trump has said about President Obama’s climate plan and why he had to pull the United States out of the 2015 Paris Climate Accord turns out to be a lie.

That’s the inescapable conclusion from the EPA’s 289-page “Regulatory Impact Analysis,” (RIA) released by the administration on Tuesday along with Trump’s new “Affordable Clean Energy Plan.” 

This new analysis reports a very low cost of complying with Obama’s much-vilified “Clean Power Plan,” (CPP) which set the rules for cleaning up the dirty U.S. power sector and was the cornerstone of America’s climate pledge at Paris.

Trump’s EPA now calculates that achieving the emissions reductions of the CPP would cost just $700 million in 2030 dropping to $400 million in 2035. The Obama EPA’s estimate for the 2030 costs were seven times larger.

According to the new analysis, the present value of the CPP’s compliance costs would be just $3 to $5 billion — while the present value of the health, economic, and environmental benefits of the reduced pollution would be as much as $80 billion.

In short, Obama’s CPP is a no brainer — small cost, huge benefits. And remember, this is according to figures buried in calculations released alongside the announced plan to repeal the CPP.

Yet, Trump has asserted for years that the CPP was a costly mistake, and that’s why the U.S. had to become the only major country in the world to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

In fact, just a few hours after the EPA released its analysis, Trump repeated his now-falsified claim to a Charleston, West Virginia audience.

In his Tuesday night speech, Trump said (emphasis added):

We’re canceling Obama’s illegal anti-coal destroying regulations, their so-called “Clean Power Plan.” Doesn’t that sound nice, “clean power.” You know, when I ended the Paris Accord — what’s a more beautiful name than the Paris Accord. Let’s call it the West Virginia accord, maybe I would’ve signed it. But when I entered it, that was going to cost us hundreds of billions of dollars — hundreds of billions.

Trump’s EPA has just debunked that claim.

Below is the EPA chart (see the “No CPP” column on the left) included in the data published August 21.

The "No CPP" column shows that not enacting Obama's Clean Power Plan saves only $0.4 billion ($400 million) in 2035. CREDIT: EPA

According to the table, if the CPP is not adopted, the savings expected (from not having to comply with stricter regulations) are estimated at $700 million ($0.7 billion) in 2030.

Obama’s own EPA had estimated that complying with the CPP in 2030 would cost more than seven times as much — $5.1 billion.

If you are wondering why the Trump EPA calculates such low compliance costs, there’s a fairly simple answer.

Since Trump took office, the economics of coal power has gotten worse and worse, especially compared to solar and wind power — so much so that the rate of collapse of coal plants has more than doubled.

The EPA puts it somewhat more opaquely in its new regulatory impact analysis, but the message is the same (emphasis added):

Due to a number of changes in the electricity sector since the CPP was finalized … the sector has become less carbon intensive over the past several years, and the trend is projected to continue.

These changes and trends are reflected in the modeling used for this analysis.

As such, achieving the emissions levels required under CPP requires less effort and expense, relative to a scenario without the CPP, and the estimated compliance costs are significantly lower than what was estimated in the final CPP RIA.

EPA’s phrase “the [electricity] sector has become less carbon intensive over the past several years, and the trend is projected to continue,” is the euphemistic way of saying coal plants are shutting down because they are uneconomic, and therefore they are going to keep shutting down, even without any new climate rules.

Indeed, the Obama EPA’s final Clean Power Plan RIA from August 2015 had projected the CPP would have cut CO2 emissions by 415 million tons in 2030, whereas the EPA’s new RIA finds that the CPP would only cut emissions by 74 million tons.

Market economics is going to do all of the rest, shutting down more than 4 out of 5 plants that the CPP would have. Obama’s “war on coal” has been replaced by the free market’s “war on coal.”

So after all of Trump’s repeated lies and absurdities — after he turned the U.S. into a rogue nation and earned the wrath of the world by walking away from the Paris climate deal — the truth is it was all for no good reason.

With or without Obama’s Clean Power Plan, coal plants are on the way out — indeed that process has sped up under Trump — and the President’s new plan will not change that at all.

Environmental law experts find major legal flaws in Trump’s replacement for Clean Power Plan: EPA’s admission of additional premature deaths from new rule could help litigants.

Local residents have complained about the amount of sulphur-dioxide, nitrogen oxide and coal particles originating from the 565-MW Cheswick coal-fired power plant in Springdale, Pennsylvania. CREDIT: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images


Opponents of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants are already gearing up for a legal fight against the Trump administration.

Clean air law experts believe the EPA’s new plan, dubbed the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, is filled with several problematic provisions that will give litigators a good shot at preventing the rule from getting implemented.

Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club are vowing to do whatever it takes to stop the rule. They argue the rule, released Tuesday, will do little to fight climate change because it will allow old coal plants to survive longer.

Aside from environmental groups, at least one state has has announced plans to pursue legal action against the proposed rule. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), for example, said Wednesday the state will oppose Trump’s plan. Washington will likely join other states in a lawsuit against the EPA after the rule is finalized.

Upon reading the proposed rule, lawyers quickly noticed a blatant omission: There are no numerical standards or targets for states to reduce power plant greenhouse gas emissions. This means states will have wide latitude to establish their own performance targets. Because the minimum standards will be left to states, it is difficult to know for sure how effective ACE will be at reducing emissions. 

The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, on the other hand, established numerical emissions reduction targets for states.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA sets standards and states implement them. By not providing a federal benchmark for individual states to meet, the plan is “actually illegal,” Joanne Spalding, deputy director of the Environmental Law Program at the Sierra Club, told reporters at a press briefing on Wednesday. “You cannot give states a guidance document that’s required by the statute without criteria with which to judge that. It’s arbitrary and capricious.”

The Clean Air Act also requires the EPA to define the “best system of emission reduction” for existing facilities, such as power plants. But the EPA’s new plan “has identified a system of emission reduction that is, at best, mediocre, far from ‘best,’” Richard Revesz, a professor of law at New York University and an expert on environmental law, told E&E News this week.

In its own analysis revealed on Tuesday upon the release of the ACE rule, the Trump administration stated that the new plan could lead to as many as 1,400 premature deaths annually by 2030 from an increase in extremely fine particulate matter that is linked to heart and lung disease.

The agency also determined that replacing the Clean Power Plan with the ACE rule, when factoring in impact of health costs, would cost the country $1.4 billion to $3.9 billion annually.

Fine particulate matter — and other dangerous toxic emissions — would continue to be emitted from coal-fired power plants because many of the facilities would be allowed to run longer than they would have under the Clean Power Plan.

Toxic emissions from coal plants have been declining over the past 20 years. But the ACE rule could slow this rate of decline by allowing coal plant operators to delay spending money to place emission control technologies on plants, such as scrubbers, that would reduce the release of toxic pollutants.

A similar analysis by the EPA of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan calculated that it would prevent between 1,500 and 3,600 premature deaths per year by 2030 and would reduce the number of school days missed by 180,000 annually due to a drop in fine particulate matter and other toxins.

“It’s very surprising that the administration itself would admit that this new rule is going to cause more illness and death,” Sabrina McCormick, an associate professor of environmental and occupational health at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, told ThinkProgress.

If a government agency puts in the administrative record that it has science showing the likely harmful impacts of a proposed policy, “plaintiffs can use this as evidence to which the courts have to defer in order to make their decision,” she said.

Environmental and public health litigants could use the data in the ACE rule related to health and welfare to fight the plan in the courts, according to McCormick.

McCormick was the lead investigator and author of a new study that examined how pro-climate action groups and anti-regulation forces have fared in using the courts to get their desired outcomes in climate-related legal cases.

The study, “Strategies in and Outcomes of Climate Change Litigation in the United States,” was published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change. The study emphasizes that the courts have played a central role in climate policy, including the landmark 2007 Supreme Court case that led to the mandatory regulation of greenhouse gases. 

The cruelty behind Trump’s absurd lies about coal to West Virginians

In other climate-related litigation, though, environmental groups and other types of plaintiffs have had trouble convincing the courts to rule in their favor.

In her research, McCormick found the industry has a better chance of showing how a particular regulation would have a negative impact on their profits. On the other hand, plaintiffs who bring cases that seek stronger regulation of greenhouse gas emissions have greater difficulty establishing either the injuries necessary to support standing or the connection between those injuries and a defendant’s conduct.

“It makes sense to me that climate advocates are losing a fair amount because they are challenging the court. Courts are very conservative. It’s hard to get them to decide in your favor,” McCormick said in the interview. “Getting standing in the case of climate change is very hard. The impacts may be down the road. It’s a bit easier for anti-regulatory plaintiffs or anti-regulatory groups to show the near-term economic impacts of a regulation.”

But McCormick said it makes sense that environmental groups are planning to fight the new ACE rule, especially given the Supreme Court’s 2007 ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA, one of the most environmental cases in the nation’s history.

Following that historic decision, the EPA issued in 2009 what is known as the “endangerment finding,” which established carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. The finding required the EPA to take action under the Clean Air Act to curb emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other heat-trapping air pollutants from vehicles, power plants, and other industries.

And so, the Obama EPA adopted the Clean Power Plan in August 2015 to address greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The plan was projected to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. But the proposal drew complaints from industry and Republican policymakers at the federal and state levels for taking too much power away from the states and putting too much burden on coal plant operators.

Given the requirement to develop a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, the Trump EPA released the far more modest ACE rule.

The EPA has said it hopes to finalize the ACE rule in “the first part” of 2019. Environmental groups are expected to wait until the rule is final before taking the EPA to court.

Spalding, who manages the Sierra Club’s climate litigation and regulatory work, said she interprets the first part of 2019 to mean getting the rule finalized by June 30, 2019. “That’s an ambitious time frame to go from proposal to final, but it’s not impossible,” she said.

Once the final rule is published in the Federal Register, groups have 60 days to challenge the rule. If the EPA meets its goal of getting the rule finalized by mid-2019, Spalding said the Sierra Club, together with other environmental groups, would likely be filing a lawsuit against it in August or September 2019.

Sierra Club


 Two Truths and a Lie: Trump Won’t Save Coal or Slow Clean Energy With Clean Power Plan Rollback https://www.sierraclub.org/compass/2018/08/trump-coal-clean-power-plan#.W3xIaKrvZlQ.twitter 
Two Truths and a Lie: Trump Won’t Save Coal or Slow Clean Energy With Clean Power Plan Rollback

Two Truths and a Lie: Trump Won’t Save Coal or Slow Clean Energy With

The Trump administration’s new, enfeebled policy doesn’t come close to meeting the legal threshold required of the EPA to create safeguards against carbon emissions. sierraclub.org

As part of the proposed rule, the EPA plans to rewrite its New Source Review rule, which regulates pollution from new facilities or modified sources. Changes to the New Source Review rule is another place the ACE plan could be vulnerable to legal challenges, Utility Dive reported Wednesday, explaining that the EPA has seen similar efforts overturned in the past.

Even conservative energy policy experts see the ACE rule as legally problematic. “Since ACE changes very little, and effectively cedes authority to states, it is possible that courts could rule that ACE is not enough to satisfy the requirements of the endangerment finding and require EPA to do more,” Philip Rossetti, director of energy at the American Action Forum, wrote Wednesday in a blog post.

Overall, the criteria on which the EPA plans to rely when reviewing state plans to implement the ACE rule is extremely unclear.

At Wednesday’s press briefing, Andres Restrepo, staff attorney with the Sierra Club’s Environmental Law Program, described how the EPA will oversee state implementation plans of the ACE rule as a “big black box.”

TVA to raise rates, will consider closing older coal plants by  Aug. 24, 2018, Utility Dive.com