The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday proposed a replacement to the Obama Administration’s so-called “Clean Power Plan,” and Alabama’s coal industry rejoiced, calling the news “a victory for Alabama.”
The replacement, entitled the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule, will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by establishing emission guidelines while still allowing the states individually to decide how they will meet the guidelines. The ACE Rule replaced the Obama Administration’s “overly prescriptive and burdensome Clean Power Plan (CPP) and instead empowers states, promotes energy independence, and facilitates economic growth and job creation,” according to an EPA press release.
When President Trump directed federal agencies to audit burdensome regulations, the EPA began a thorough review of the CPP, which was also blocked from taking effect by the United States Supreme Court.
“The ACE Rule would restore the rule of law and empower states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide modern, reliable and affordable energy for all Americans,” EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement. “Today’s proposal provides the states and regulated community the certainty they need to continue environmental progress while fulfilling President Trump’s goal of energy dominance.”
The proposal comes as a major victory for Alabama jobs, as the Obama Administration’s now-repealed rule was viewed as intentionally crippling the coal industry.
An analysis of the Obama CPP by Energy Ventures Analysis forecast that the rule would have forced the closure of 41,000 megawatts of coal-based generating capacity – an amount capable of serving 24 million homes – and cost consumers an estimated additional $214 billion for electricity between 2022 and 2030 and an additional $64 billion for the construction of replacement generating capacity.
Additional projections in the Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2017 estimated that the CPP would have reduced coal demand by 242 million tons, which in turn would kill 127,000 high-wage jobs across the nation in coal-related direct and indirect employment by 2040.
President Trump has been credited with saving the coal industry. One Alabama miner recently named a new $2.7 million excavator “Trump” as a tribute to the president’s hard work. Alabama’s coal industry supports tens of thousands of people in the state, and its leaders are elated that the Obama Administration’s “War on Coal” is officially over.
“Alabama coal mining has a tremendous economic impact,” Alabama Coal Association President Patrick Cagle told Yellowhammer News.
He explained the many indirect jobs that the state’s coal industry provides besides the 4,000 more-obvious direct jobs.
“Because of all the equipment, the mechanics that repair the equipment and the different modes of transportation that get mined coal to its buyer, the coal industry is a lot more comprehensive than jobs at a mine,” Cagle outlined.
He continued, “All of this is done by local companies. Take, for example, the tires that are continuously needing to be replaced. Six tires for a mining truck run $23,000 a piece. You’re not getting that on Amazon. We’re buying those from local companies, and they’re being installed by local mechanics. So you really have to consider the direct and the indirect economic impact of mining.”
Cagle emphasized the importance of the industry not just on the state, but specifically on local communities.
“Most of Alabama’s coal is mined in areas that don’t have a lot of other economic opportunity going on,” he said.
A key difference between Obama’s CPP and Trump’s ACE is that CPP was a unilateral executive action while ACE works within the parameters established by Congress through the Clean Air Act to reduce carbon emissions.
“EPA has an important role when it comes to addressing the CO2 from our nation’s power plants,” Assistant EPA Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation Bill Wehrum said in a press release. “The ACE rule would fulfill this role in a manner consistent with the structure of the Clean Air Act while being equally respectful of its bounds.”
No matter what gnashing of the teeth occurs by liberal members of the media, it is important to note that the Trump Administration’s proposed rule – ACE – will still significantly reduce emissions and possibly result in higher reductions than CPP would have. Most importantly for the Yellowhammer State, it does so in a way that provides flexibility and allows for common sense.
“The Trump Administration’s Affordable Clean Energy plan gives the flexibility to determine how to implement the rule as required by the Clean Air Act, as opposed to President Obama’s one-size-fits-all approach that treated each state the same,” Cagle explained.
He added, “Each state’s energy mix is a little different. States like Alabama should be able to factor in that the coal produced here that is used to generate electricity provides our state with energy security. And that should be taken into account when determining the future of power plants burning Alabama coal.”
The EPA will accept comment on the proposal for 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register and will also hold a public hearing. More information, including a fact sheet, is available here.
What’s the bottom line for Alabama?
“This is a victory for Alabama and all the businesses and families that depend on affordable and reliable energy,” Cagle concluded.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn