EPA to scrap clean power plan: What it means locally

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TOLEDO, Ohio (13abc Action News) - The war on coal is over. Those words today from the head of the Environmental Protection Agency during a trip to Hazard, Kentucky Monday. Scott Pruitt says the Trump administration will abandon the Obama-era clean power plan. Pruitt says he will sign a proposed rule Tuesday to withdraw the plan.

There are a number of coal-fired plants in our region. The closest to Toledo is actually one of the largest in the United States, DTE's Monroe Power Plant. In spite of today's announcement, experts say abandoning the clean power plan probably won't change the long-term outlook for coal.

Pruitt made the announcement in coal country, "People want to know that the EPA is no longer in the business of picking winners and losers or trying to use regulations to declare war on a certain sector of the economy. That's not how a regulatory body should act."

The clean power plan was a centerpiece of the Obama administration's environmental policies. Ken Kilbert is an environmental law expert at The University of Toledo, "The idea was to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32% nationwide by the year 2020."

There was opposition to it right away. Kilbert says dozens of states, Including Ohio, lined up against the rule, "The plan was challenged in court the year after it came out.The Supreme Court issued a stay, so the rule never took effect."

The goal of the clean power plan was to restrict greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. The EPA is expected to declare the rule exceeded federal law by setting emissions standards that power plants could not reasonably meet. Kilbert says this is the first step in a proposal to rescind the plan, "What's happening is a proposal to rescind the 2015 rule. At this point it is just a piece of paper. There is no force of law until the final rule after public comment. That will happen at the earliest in 2018."

Kilbert says regardless of today's announcement, coal is being phased out by a lot of power companies, and it all comes down to money, "Coal irrespective of any environmental regulations is phasing out because of cheap natural gas along with solar and wind and other alternative energy sources."

We checked in with both First Energy and DTE. A DTE spokesman says this does not change the company's plans to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by the year 2050. The spokesman adds that DTE plans to continue shifting energy sources from coal to natural gas.
The company also plans to continue increasing wind and solar power options as well.

A First Energy spokeswoman says it is too soon to comment on the potential impact of this decision, but company leaders will follow developments closely. According to First Energy, the Bay Shore Power Plant in Oregon is categorized as a coal-fired plant. However, a spokeswoman says it has been fueled by petroleum coke since the year 2000.