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Trump administration finalizes coal-friendly emissions rule


Big Sky Connection

The International Energy Agency says countries need to reduce carbon pollution by 74% before 2030 to avoid a catastrophic rise in global temperatures. (Snap Happy/Adobe Stock)

Eric Tegethoff

June 20, 2019

HELENA, Montana - The Trump administration has finalized a rule that will roll back an Obama-era regulation to cut emissions from the United States' power sector. 

The Environmental Protection Agency's new plan, the 
Affordable Clean Energy rule, scales back greenhouse gas emission reduction limits originally laid out in the Clean Power Plan.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler calls the Obama administration rule an example of overreach and says the replacement instead will allow states to decide emissions standards. 

But Mark Fix, a Montana rancher and former chair of the 
Northern Plains Resource Council, says people who work on the land are noticing climate change's effects.

"It seems like they're really not coming up with a very good plan," he states. "It seems like they're basically kind of ignoring the climate change effects that we're having as farmers and ranchers. You know, we were kind of hoping that maybe they'd do something to help us with that, but it doesn't appear they're going to."

Fix notes that his ranch near Miles City in eastern Montana has faced wildfires, ice jam flooding and a tornado in recent years, and these types of extreme weather patterns seem to be picking up. 

Twenty-eight states and power companies challenged the Clean Power Plan and the Supreme Court suspended the rule in 2016 before it went into effect.

Wheeler is a former coal lobbyist and is touting this new rule as a win for the coal industry, which would have been most heavily affected by the Clean Power Plan. 

However, renewable energy sources such as hydro, solar and wind are growing rapidly. Earlier this year, renewable energy output surpassed coal. 

Fix says this new rule could just prop up an industry that is fading on its own.

"This isn't going to help them all that much, I don't think," he states. "The shift is already there. We're going to other types of fuel and powers and stuff. So I think it's going to be a tough go for the guys in the coal industry for a while."

The Obama-era Clean Power Plan was set to cut carbon pollution to 32% below 2005 levels by 2030. Even that is far below the 74% reduction the International Energy Agency says is necessary to avoid a catastrophic rise in global temperature of two degrees above pre-industrial levels in the next 11 years.


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