A federal court just struck down Trump’s attempt to make power plants even dirtier – By Umair Irfan (VOX) / January 19 2021
The Affordable Clean Energy rule, which replaced Obama’s Clean Power Plan, would’ve led to more power sector emissions.
On President Donald Trump’s last full day in office, a federal court struck down his final effort to undo his predecessor’s legacy on climate change, handing President-elect Joe Biden a clean slate to craft regulations for greenhouse gases from power plants.
The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down the 2019 Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, the Trump administration’s effort to lower power sector emissions by a tepid 11 million tons, or between 0.7 and 1.5 percent, by 2030. The rule replaced President Barack Obama’s 2015 Clean Power Plan, which aimed to reduce US power sector emissions by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. (Obama’s Clean Power Plan never took effect — a number of Republican state attorneys general sued to block it, and the Supreme Court issued a stay to allow those lawsuits to proceed.)
Power generation is the second-largest source of greenhouse gases in the United States, and the EPA is required to regulate these emissions under the Clean Air Act, according the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency in 2007. So the Trump administration couldn’t simply repeal the Obama-era regulation; it had to come up with a replacement.
One quirk of the ACE rule is that it was actually worse for the environment than doing nothing because it created incentives to burn more fossil fuels. While the Obama rule allowed power plants to use a variety of tactics to reduce their emissions, the Trump rule centered on increasing efficiency — i.e. drawing more energy from each unit of fossil fuels. This has the side effect of making fossil fuels more cost effective. One study found that the ACE rule would cause 28 percent of model coal plants to spew more carbon dioxide by 2030 compared to a scenario with no policy at all.