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EPA rolls back Obama-era coal pollution rules as Trump heads to West Virginia

As his Environmental Protection Agency delivers its latest blow to environmental regulations aimed at reduci...

Posted: Aug 21, 2018 5:31 PM
Updated: Aug 21, 2018 5:31 PM

As his Environmental Protection Agency delivers its latest blow to environmental regulations aimed at reducing carbon emissions, President Donald Trump is heading into the heart of coal country to deliver the good news.

Trump will join supporters in Charleston, West Virginia, for a political rally on Tuesday to celebrate his administration's proposal to allow states to set their own emissions standards for coal-fueled power plants.

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The move would reverse Obama administration efforts to combat climate change and marks the fulfillment of a campaign promise at the heart of his appeal in coal-producing states like West Virginia -- an appeal embodied by Trump's 2016 campaign stops in the coal country of West Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania, where Trump supporters waved "Trump Digs Coal" signs and where the President-to-be donned a coal-mining helmet.

The EPA Tuesday morning formally unveiled the details of its new plan to devolve regulation of coal-fired power plants back to the states, one that is expected to give a boost to the coal industry and increase carbon emissions nationwide.

The move is expected to spark an intense legal battle, with environmental groups already readying legal challenges to the new regulations.

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Tuesday argued the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan -- the policy being replaced by this week's proposal -- "exceeded the agency's legal authority" and argued the old regulations led to rising energy prices which have "hurt low and middle income Americans the most."

EPA says the rule could cut cut electricity prices by 0.2% to 0.5% around 2025.

The EPA's own analysis of the Trump administration proposal also estimated that it will lead to an increase in pollution-related illnesses, like asthma, and a rise in premature deaths.

Gina McCarthy, the Obama administration EPA chief who finalized the Clean Power Plan, called the Trump administration's proposal "just another step in industry's playbook to dismantle regulations that they find inconvenient but are absolutely essential for our public health and our kids' future."

"It's really all about playing to their base, not doing their job to protect public health," McCarthy told CNN's Alisyn Camerota Tuesday morning on "New Day." "And so, this is another one of those rules that is very long, but it actually in the end does absolutely nothing to protect public health or our kids' future."

The move is just the latest effort by the Trump administration to revive an ailing coal industry and strip climate change-fighting regulations established by the Obama administration. He previously announced plans to withdraw from the Paris climate accords, calling it an unfair deal for Americans.

"I was elected by the citizens of Pittsburgh," Trump said at the time, "not Paris."

Those moves have been rebuffed by California and a dozen other states, which have led a push to maintain high environmental standards and legally challenge the Trump administration's rollback of the Obama-era rules.

In a statement on Tuesday, California Gov. Jerry Brown decried the Trump administration's latest proposal as "a declaration of war against America and all of humanity."

"It will not stand," he said. "Truth and common sense will triumph over Trump's insanity."

Trump will tout his new proposals Tuesday night in West Virginia, where Republicans are vying to wrench a hotly contested Senate seat from Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin.

Trump won the state in 2016 with 68% of the vote and is hoping his popularity will lift the Republican Senate nominee, the state's attorney general Patrick Morrisey, above his opponent.

Morrisey's office on Tuesday seized on the Trump administration's announcement, calling it a "critical step" to reverse the impact Obama administration regulations had on the coal industry.

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