The Trump administration’s proposed new “Affordable Clean Energy” rule on coal-powered plants, which would reverse an Obama-era regulation that would have required coal power operations to reduce their carbon emissions over the next several years, sent waves of shock and horror through environmentalists who say the rule could have serious impacts on the health of Americans.
“This plan could make things worse, especially when combined with all the other rollbacks to climate laws from the federal level,” said Flora Cardoni, a Climate Defender Campaign Director with PennEnvironment. “The Trump plan would release 12 times as much carbon dioxide into the air compared to the Obama rule, three million more tons of greenhouse gases released into the air.”
Obama announced the Clean Power Plan three years ago, in August 2015, the first-ever national standards addressing carbon pollution from power plants. The rule never officially took effect, after it was delayed by the courts. Trump’s proposed rule likewise won’t take immediate effect, and is now open for a public comment period ahead of the final rule later this year.
Trump’s proposal indicates that states would be responsible for setting their own emissions standards. But higher emissions anywhere will affect the rest of the nation, Cardoni said.
“Air pollution does not stay within borders, that’s a large part of the problem,” she said. “The continued reliance on these 19th-century power sources is truly a recipe for disaster, especially when we have cleaner, safer, renewable sources of energy available.”
By 2030, Cardoni said, higher carbon emissions under Trump’s rule are estimated to impact public health by, each year, causing 3,600 deaths, 90,000 asthma attacks and 300,000 missed work days.
“Pennsylvanians want a safer environment, and we believe that we should not have to suffer from a federal government that’s reversing all of our progress and making people sick,” Cardoni said. “If the Obama clean power plan was implemented at a national level we would see huge benefits to our climate and health.”
Trump coal plan’s effects
Steve Hvozdovich, the Pennsylvania Campaigns Director at Clean Water Action, said the move was a natural extension of Trump exiting the Paris Climate Accords. The two main impacts, he said, will be worsening public health due to increased carbon emissions and delaying the implementation of renewable energy technology.
“As we continue to keep ourselves beholden to dirty sources of energy, we prevent ourselves from moving forward and developing more renewable sources of energy,” Hvozdovich said. “We’re allowing an industry that is dirty and is putting out emissions that impact people’s health to continue to operate as usual and even relaxing the need for upgrades.”
He urged the public to submit comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pushing back against this change.
“This is a much bigger issue than just one state. This is a national issue, a world issue: combatting climate change,” he said. “This policy is just another example of them [the Trump administration] being not serious and committed to addressing this issue.”