Trump’s power plant pollution rollback is struck down on eve of White House departure

Louise Boyle
·2 min read
The Trump administration’s attempt to reverse an Obama-era rule to tackle emissions from coal-fired power plants has been struck down by a federal court, a day before Mr Trump leaves office (AP)
The Trump administration’s attempt to reverse an Obama-era rule to tackle emissions from coal-fired power plants has been struck down by a federal court, a day before Mr Trump leaves office (AP)

On the eve of leaving the White House, Donald Trump’s rollback of an Obama-era pollution rule has been struck down in a federal court ruling.

A DC appeals court on Tuesday vacated the Trump administration’s attempt to repeal and replace the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, a landmark set of standards to tackle emissions from existing coal-fired power plants – one of the country’s largest sources of planet-heating emissions.

Andrew Wheeler, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), got rid of the Clean Power Plan in 2019.

In its place came the significantly-weaker Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule. It established no meaningful limits on carbon emissions, and would have led to more pollution at around 20 per cent of US coal-fired power plants, according to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

The EPA had argued the Clean Power Plan was government overreach. "Unlike the Clean Power Plan, ACE adheres to the Clean Air Act and gives states the regulatory certainty they need to continue to reduce emissions and provide a dependable, diverse supply of electricity that all Americans can afford," Administrator Wheeler previously said.

The court on Tuesday ruled that the ACE rule rested on a “mistaken reading of the Clean Air Act”.

Following the ruling, environmentalists applauded the court decision.

“Today’s decision is the perfect Inauguration Day present for America. It confirms that the Trump administration’s dubious attempt to get rid of commonsense limits on climate pollution from power plants was illegal, it reaffirms that the Clean Air Act and the Endangerment Finding are the law of the land, and it restores the vibrancy of the rule of law,” said EDF senior attorney Ben Levitan.”

“Now we can turn to the critically important work of protecting Americans from climate change and creating new clean energy jobs.”

The court ruling means that, in this instance, the incoming Biden administration will not have to unwind at least one Trump-era decision. During his administration, the outgoing president oversaw more than a 100 environmental rules and polices rolled back or weakened.

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