Trump administration's new proposal aimed at helping coal industry

Olive Hawkins
December 9, 2018

Announced by Interior Department Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt, a Colorado native and a former energy lobbyist, the proposal would allow for changes to habitat boundary maps of the chicken-size prairie fowl - considered by conservationists to be a key indicator species for America's dwindling sagebrush ecosystem.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management photo shows a sage-grouse in this undated photo. With people like this running the country, we are nearly certainly doomed to live out the worst case scenarios in that climate report, as Ring of Fire's Farron Cousins explains.

The Obama administration had launched the plan to protect the sage-grouse in September 2015 as an alternative to listing the ground-dwelling bird under the Endangered Species Act, a move that would potentially have entailed even tougher habitat protections.

Jay Duffy, a legal associate at Clean Air Task Force, said lifting the carbon emissions limit failed to satisfy clean air law requirements for the best available emissions technology.

"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", Mary Anne Hitt, senior director of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, said in a statement.

The sage-grouse population has increased every decade since 1965, according to a report (pdf) by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed another rollback Thursday aimed at easing controls on emissions from coal-fired power plants, this time for new ones, even as warnings mount from the agency's scientists and others about the growing toll of climate change.

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Wheeler said emission controls that the Obama rule would demand of new coal plants went beyond what was now technologically possible.

"By replacing onerous regulations with high, yet achievable, standards, we can continue America's historic energy production, keep energy prices affordable, and encourage new investments in cutting-edge technology that can then be exported around the world", Wheeler said in a statement.

Steam rises from a pile of coal at a mine in Bishop, West Virginia, May 19, 2018.

"There are not going to be any new coal plants built in the US, with or without this", said David Doniger, a senior climate and energy policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, noting that the low price of natural gas in recent years has made coal less economically viable. This year will see the second-greatest number of US closings of coal-fired power plants on record.

Companies like Duke Energy have announced plans to close coal-fired power plants, according to the Charlotte Observer, and say they don't plan to open more coal-powered facilities in the future.

While it is unlikely to halt the decline of coal power, EPA's decision to lift emissions caps for new generators marks the latest action from the Trump administration to spark a comeback for the resource. US oil production is already the highest in the world, above Saudi Arabia and Russian Federation, after a boom that was triggered more than a decade ago by improved drilling technology.

A U.S. Government report last month found climate change will cost the national economy hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century.

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