The Environmental Protection Agency took the first steps in replacing former President Barack Obama's "Clean Power Plan" by asking the public what a replacement plan should look like.
The Clean Power Plan sought to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. E&E News reports that the Trump administration has suggested it would release a stripped-down version of the plan that would focus on improving efficiency at select plants, as opposed to former President Barack Obama's industry-wide approach.
On Dec. 18, the EPA released an "advanced notice of proposed rulemaking" regarding new emission guidelines for reducing GHGs from electric utility generating units (EGUs).
"[The EPA is] soliciting information on the proper respective roles of the state and federal governments ... as well as information on systems of emission reduction that are applicable at or to an existing EGU, information on compliance measures, and information on state planning requirements under the Clean Air Act," the notice reads.
The Hill reports that the EPA proposed repealing the Clean Power Plan in October on the basis that it breached the agency's authority as specified by Congress under the Clean Air Act.
"Consistent with our commitment to the rule of law, we’ve already set in motion an assessment of the previous administration’s questionable legal basis in our proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan," said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in a statement. "With a clean slate, we can now move forward to provide regulatory certainty."
At a hearing earlier in December, Pruitt announced that the agency would potentially be seeking a replacement climate rule. It had already been decided that any new rules would only apply to improving specific things at coal and natural gas power plants, such as generator efficiency.
The EPA's scaled-down approach would undermine Obama's goal of encouraging fossil fuel-fired power plants to switch to renewable resources. According to Reuters, the commenting period will last for 60 days.
"Today’s move ensures adequate and early opportunity for public comment from all stakeholders about next steps the agency might take to limit greenhouse gases from stationary sources, in a way that properly stays within the law, and the bounds of the authority provided to EPA by Congress," Pruitt said.
Power industry leaders are supportive of the agency's decision to change the rule, The Hill reports.
"Our hope is that today's request for input will begin a true collaboration between the federal government, states, and all stakeholders to develop a more durable and achievable approach to addressing carbon emissions," said president of the Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute, Karen Harbert, in a statement. "The new approach should lower emissions, preserve America’s energy advantage, and respect the boundaries of the Clean Air Act."
Environmental advocates say that changing the rule violates the promises of the Clean Air Act.
"By slow-walking its legal duty to protect our climate, EPA panders to fossil fuel polluters at the expense of communities around the nation," said Earthjustice president Trip Van Noppen. "EPA's misguided strategy not only fails to tackle the carbon pollution that is driving climate change, but also would produce 4,500 premature deaths each year from other pollutants the Clean Power Plan would cut."