WASHINGTON (CN) – Unraveling America's pledge to cut back carbon dioxide emissions, the Environmental Protection Agency opened the issue to public comment Monday.
Known as an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking, the invitation comes roughly two months after the EPA first announced its formal proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan.
Adopted in 2015 by former President Barack Obama, the Clean Power Plan was a key part of the U.S. commitment to reduce emissions as part of the Paris climate agreement. The plan called for a 32 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, leaving it to states to devise renewable-energy alternatives
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, whose close ties to the oil industry are well documented, has long argued the regulation exceeded congressional authority granted to the EPA under the Clean Air Act.
“Today’s move ensures adequate and early opportunity for public comment from all stakeholders about next steps the agency might take to limit greenhouse gases from stationary sources, in a way that properly stays within the law, and the bounds of the authority provided to EPA by Congress,” Pruitt said in a statement Monday.
“With a clean slate, we can now move forward to provide regulatory certainty,” he added.
At a congressional hearing earlier this month, lawmakers asked Pruitt if he envisioned a replacement for the rule. Pruitt said he would consider one.
Per terms of the proposed repeal, any new standards to the rule would only apply only to plants powered by coal or natural gas.
"EPA is considering proposing emission guidelines to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing electric utility generating units (EGUs) and is soliciting information on the proper respective roles of the state and federal governments in that process, as well as information on systems of emission reduction that are applicable at or to an existing EGU, information on compliance measures, and information on state planning requirements under the Clean Air Act (CAA)," the notice states.
Tomas Carbonell, lead attorney at the Environmental Defense Fund, was skeptical of both the proposed repeal and any possible replacement from the agency.
“EPA has an urgent legal and moral obligation to protect American families and communities from the harmful pollution that is destabilizing our climate,” Carbonell said in a statement Monday. “Our nation needs stronger, faster climate protections, not Scott Pruitt’s cynical ‘repeal and replace’ of America’s Clean Power Plan. Delaying them, or ‘considering’ replacing them, is irresponsible. Nowhere does EPA’s notice give any indication that it recognizes the severity of the climate threat or the importance of putting in place more protective pollution limits.”
Representatives from New York and California were also singled out in the notice. Both states already have emission-reduction plans in place, and the agency says it would need to weigh how those programs may work with a replacement rule.
“Today’s announcement says EPA is assessing ‘the possibility of replacing certain aspects of [the Clean Power Plan] – wording that defies repeated court rulings about EPA’s responsibilities under the law,” Carbonell said. “The [plan] is firmly anchored in law and has a robust technical record. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled three times that EPA has the authority and responsibility to limit climate pollution, and as recently as October two D.C. Circuit judges reminded Administrator Pruitt of his ‘affirmative statutory obligation’ to protect Americans from climate pollution from power plants.
"Pruitt is treating his legal duties as optional – but the courts have made very clear they are not.”
The comment period will be open for 60 days and comments can be submitted online or by mail.
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