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Trump administration's new proposal aimed at helping coal industry

09 December 2018

EPA's current New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for coal plants require that new generators emit no more than 1,400 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of power, but Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced his agency will raise that limit to 1,900 pounds for large generators.

The EPA suggested high efficiency, low emissions (HELE) coal technologies, in contrast, were making a difference around the world right now.

It's been less than a week since we got that massive EPA climate assessment warning us how bad things are going to get in this country if we do not address the problem of climate change.

Despite the continued drops in domestic coal use, 2018 has been a better year for the industry thanks to soaring exports, said Joe Aldina, director of USA coal analysis for S&P Global Platts.

"This administration cares about action and results, not talks and wishful thinking", Wheeler said. "They knew [CCS] technology was not adequately demonstrated".

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The proposal eases an Obama-era rule that said new power plants had to include equipment to limit and capture carbon dioxide emissions - a regulation which industry groups said was burdensome and essentially blocked any new plants. They're repealing yet another Obama rule that would have helped reduce the amount of carbon that we're spewing into the atmosphere.

Even with the regulatory rollbacks, utilities are not expected to invest in new coal generation.

Citing that and other Obama administration moves to tamp down emissions from coal-fired power plants in the national electrical grid, McConnell called the proposal "a crucial step toward undoing the damage and putting coal back on a level playing field".

"The forward curve for natural gas looks exceedingly attractive", he said.

Government data shows that USA coal consumption is at its lowest level in 39 years and that coal-fired power plants continue to close, citing cheaper natural gas, older facilities, and competition from renewable energy.

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In recent years it has stopped building new plants and been shutting down old ones instead.

Renewable resources like wind and solar power have also been growing in use, cutting into the energy market that coal once dominated. And amid reports that Carbon dioxide emissions are rising again, as well as the administration's own report that climate change is causing more severe weather more frequently and could eventually hurt the USA economy. They blasted the EPA's announcement. "We're not trying to pick winners and losers". Now perhaps repealing this rule might encourage coal companies to go out there and build new plants and whatever, but considering the staggering drop in demand, that seems unlikely, so this may actually be one of those cases where the Trump administration comes in, repeals and Obama rule allows for more pollution, but that pollution may not actually materialize because they're, once again, essentially betting on a dead horse because that's what coal is at this point.

But miners, oil drillers, and ranchers in some Western states have said the plan unnecessarily hurt economic development.

"Today's proposal is nothing more than another thoughtless attempt by the Trump Administration to prop up their backwards and false narrative about reviving coal at the expense of science, public safety, and reality", said Mary Anne Hitt, senior director of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign.

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Trump administration's new proposal aimed at helping coal industry