After Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed the Affordable Clean Energy rule, which replaces the Obama-era Clean Power Plan in hopes of jump-starting coal-fired power plants, U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik wrote in a Facebook post that she opposes the regulatory rollback.
“This rollback will have a detrimental impact on the significant progress we have made in combating the impacts of acid rain in the Adirondacks,” Stefanik wrote, specifically naming President Donald Trump’s administration. “Today’s administrative action highlights why these important issues should be legislated through Congress and not written by regulatory agencies.”
The Clean Power Plan set greenhouse gas emission targets to discourage high carbon-emitting power sources — like coal. The Affordable Clean Energy rule, on the other hand, lets states create their own regulations for power plants.
This allows states to essentially bypass the Clean Air Act’s “good neighbor” provision, which requires the EPA to stop smog emitted in one state from causing harm to residents of another state.
The EPA was already not enforcing the provision earlier this year, which led to two federal district courts ruling against the agency in the same week, telling the EPA it had to uphold the Clean Air Act. That means telling executives at coal-fired power plants in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to turn on their pre-installed pollution-control devices, preventing their toxic byproducts from floating across state lines.
These pollutants are carried on wind streams until they hit the Adirondack mountains, where some of them return to the earth as acid rain, poisoning lakes and trees.
Deep in a 289-page scientific analysis of the new rule, the EPA acknowledges the plan would cause between 470 and 1,400 premature deaths annually by 2030, as revealed by The New York Times. According to the EPA’s own study, the new rule would increase the presence of microscopic airborne particulates that are linked to heart and lung disease and have the ability to trigger chronic problems such as asthma and bronchitis.
By comparison, the EPA under President Barack Obama estimated the Clean Power Plan would have avoided between 1,500 and 3,600 premature deaths annually by 2030.
An executive order from Trump in March 2017 directed federal agencies to review burdensome regulations. After 27 states, 24 trade associations, 37 rural electric co-ops and three labor unions challenged the Clean Power Plan, the EPA found the plan, “overly prescriptive and burdensome.”
Stefanik opposed the Clean Power Plan when it was first passed by Obama’s executive order, because she said it was an issue that should be governed by Congress.
“When Congress is circumvented in the process, the policy can easily be undone from one administration to the other,” Stefanik’s spokesman Tom Flanagin wrote in an email in October 2017. “Congress, not federal bureaucrats, should set our national energy policy.”
Stefanik voted with a majority of the House in December 2015 to repeal the Clean Power Plan, an effort which was eventually vetoed by Obama.
“Your partisan votes have left the North Country exposed to coal emissions and acid rain,” Democratic congressional candidate Tedra Cobb wrote on Twitter, tagging Stefanik. “#NY21 deserves a leader who represents their values and not the interest of big business.”
The Clean Power Plan was estimated to reduce carbon emissions by as much as 19 percent from projected levels by 2030, while Affordable Clean Energy is estimated to reduce them by 1.5 percent by the same year.
The EPA projects that Affordable Clean Energy could save coal-fired power plants up to $400 million per year, compared to the Clean Power Plan.
The EPA will take public comments on the proposal for 60 days after Tuesday and will hold a public hearing.