Originally published on DailyKos.
By Meteor Blades
It’s not the perfect plan, but the Clean Power Plan developed by the Obama administration is the strongest U.S. effort yet to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel power plants to address climate change. So, of course, the climate science-denying, fossil-fuel marionettes of the Trump regime are eager to get rid of it.
An internal Environmental Protection Agency document revealed by Reuters on Wednesday and followed up in more detail Thursday by The New York Times shows the chosen path may be to repeal and replace the plan.
This comes as no surprise. Trump himself has frequently made clear he opposes the CPP. And EPA’s chief, Scott Pruitt, was a key actor as attorney general of Oklahoma in launching the 27-state lawsuit filed against the plan while Obama was still in office. That case is still working its way through the courts. Lisa Friedman reports:
The E.P.A. document, “October 2017 Tiering List,” lays out coming policy issues of high priority for the agency’s office of air and radiation, which oversees air pollution policies.
“The agency is issuing a proposal to repeal the rule,” the document states. It says the agency will issue a formal notice of its intention to develop a new rule “similarly intended to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing fossil-fueled electric utility generating units and to solicit information for the agency to consider in developing such a rule.”
The document does not explain how the E.P.A. will justify to the courts the decision to eliminate the regulation. Several industry attorneys familiar with the agency’s plans said they expected Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. administrator, to argue that the Obama administration relied on an overly broad reading of federal clean air laws in writing the Clean Power Plan.
While their real choice, and the choice of our fossil-fuel overlords, would be to trash the Clean Power Plan altogether, there’s a problem. The Supreme Court ruled a decade ago that the EPA is not merely allowed but also required to regulate carbon emissions if the agency found that such emissions endanger America’s health and security. In 2009, the agency made that exact determination, now known as the endangerment finding.
Repealing the CPP while that finding stands would create problems in court, and eliminating the finding would take a good deal more than an executive order, even though Trump in March issued an executive order commanding Pruitt to dismantle the plan and subsequently told an audience he had already dumped it.
But, as Abrahm Lustgarten wrote last year:
“Attempting to overturn the endangerment finding would be like running toward a machine gun,” said Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University. “Scientific support was very strong when it was issued in 2009; it has become much stronger since then.” […]
The agency’s conclusion rested on thousands of pages of peer-reviewed research, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, from the U.S. Global Climate Research Program, and from the National Research Council. The agency wrote its rules and subjected them to public criticism. The public submitted voluminous comments, all of which were reviewed by the EPA before it issued a final rule.
Thus, fearing that eliminating the CPP without a replacement would leave them in a bind with the Supreme Court ruling requiring that carbon emissions be regulated, fossil fuel industrialists and their allies urged the White House to take a different tack—creating a weak plan to protect industry on the legal front. Thus, repeal and replace.
However, the exact approach has apparently not yet been decided. And nobody at the EPA would comment to reporters on the internal document, the timing of action on the regime’s proposal, or even when it will be announced.
So we’re left with speculation.
Instead of a wholesale repeal, the EPA could choose to gut the existing CPP and fill in the blanks with something much weaker rather than eliminating it altogether. The outcome, of course, would be the same: Fewer carbon emissions would be curtailed, the time-frame for making reductions might be extended, and other changes could be made, all this good enough to meet any objections from the judiciary.
Whether this repair-to-replace approach is taken or the CPP actually is repealed and replaced with an entirely new plan is unlikely to make much difference in terms of how long it takes to come up with a reversal. Producing the original rule took three years to write, scrutinize public comments and deal with a lawsuit challenging the EPA’s endangerment ruling. Changing or fully replacing the CPP would presumably take a similar amount of time. By then, a new administration might be in the White House and the destruction or weakening of the CPP could be re-reversed.
As depressing as the news of the regime’s approach to the CPP is, there’s good news on this front this week as well. Renewable energy, thanks to state requirements and the market, is rapidly growing in spite of what the White House is doing. Two new reports show that new solar installations are exceeding expectations and breaking records. The faster-than-anticipated spread of renewables, while not making the CPP moot, could lessen the impact of its repeal and replacement when and if that comes to pass.
Reprinted with permission.