WASHINGTON—The Trump administration is expected on Dec. 6, to roll back an Obama-era rule requiring new 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 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made an “energy policy announcement” on Thursday. Andrew Wheeler, EPA’s acting administrator, spoke alongside Harry Alford, president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, a long-time opponent of former President Barack Obama’s limits on carbon emissions.
The EPA proposed allowing new coal plants to emit up to 1,900 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of electricity.
The Trump proposal replaces an Obama-era standard allowing only 1,400 pounds of carbon per megawatt-hour.
Under the Obama rule, new coal plants would have to burn some natural gas and install carbon capture equipment or highly efficient technology that is not yet commercially available.
The U.S. government lists only two major coal plants being planned over the next four years as the industry has been discouraged by plentiful and less-expensive natural gas. That could change as President Donald Trump rolls back regulations.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell applauded the EPA, saying it would help families who work in the coal industry in his state of Kentucky. “Coal deserves a level playing field, and that’s what this White House is trying to accomplish,” McConnell said.
Myron Ebell, who led Trump’s EPA transition team last year, said Trump’s policies could allow new coal plants to be built in the next 5, 10 or 15 years.
The administration says coal plants can be made to burn coal far more efficiently. But high costs have made them uneconomic. The regulatory rollback comes ahead of the annual U.N. climate talks in Poland next week, where White House officials plan a panel on coal technology.