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Trump's EPA proposes looser carbon limits on new coal plants

Reuters  |  WASHINGTON 

By Humeyra and Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The on Thursday proposed rolling back an Obama-era rule requiring new U.S. coal plants to slash carbon emissions, a move that could crack open the door in coming years for new plants fired by the fossil fuel.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, announced the proposal. It would allow new coal plants to emit up to 1,900 pounds (862 kg) of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of electricity, up from 1,400 pounds now.

The move to revive the ailing coal industry, whose share in the U.S. has been in decline, caused an uproar among environmental groups, who said it ignored dire warnings from the world's scientists about climate change.

"We are rescinding unfair burdens on American and levelling the playing field so that new can be part of America's future," Wheeler said at a press conference. He spoke alongside Harry Alford, of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, a long-time opponent of former Barack Obama's limits on carbon emissions.

The EPA hopes to finalise the rule after a public comment period.

"This proposal is another illegal attempt by the to prop up an industry already buckling under the powerful force of the free market," said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat on the Committee.

Under the existing Obama-era rule, new coal plants would have to burn some natural gas, which emits less carbon, or install or highly efficient technology that is not yet commercially available.

Wheeler argued the proposal would not boost U.S. greenhouse emissions but would actually help drive them down by encouraging U.S. investment in new energy technologies, which could then be exported.

"I'd love to see coal plants being built in and meet our standards," he said.

The announcement came ahead of annual U.N. climate talks in next week, where officials plan a panel on

A report last month found climate change will cost the national economy hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century. That bleak picture clashes with the Trump administration's pro-fossil-fuels agenda.

"We are not ignoring the government report," Wheeler said. But he added "a lot of the media's focused on is the worst-case scenario."


The has projected that coal demand will fall this year to the lowest in 39 years, as the power industry moves further toward and renewables like solar and wind. The government lists plans for two new major coal fired power plants over the next five years, which could benefit from the EPA's rollback. Still, it also lists plans for 77 retirements.

Asked if the EPA had an estimate on whether the new proposal would result in many new coal plants being built, Wheeler said that was not up to the agency.

"We are not picking winners and losers here," he said.

Jay Duffy, a legal associate at Clean Air Task Force, said lifting the carbon emissions limit failed to satisfy for the best available

Mitch McConnell, a Republican, applauded the EPA's proposal, saying it would help families working in the coal industry in his state of

"Coal deserves a level playing field, and that's what this is trying to accomplish," McConnell said.

(Reporting by Gardner; editing by and Rosalba O'Brien)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, December 07 2018. 06:43 IST