President Donald Trump's administration continued its efforts to erase Obama-era climate change efforts on Monday when Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt formally announced intentions to roll back the Clean Power Plan.
The Obama administration finalized the CPP in 2015, which aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
Even so, the plan has been a factor in a wave of retirements of coal-fired plants, which also are being squeezed by lower costs for natural gas and renewable power and state mandates promoting energy conservation.
"Pruitt claims "the war on coal is over.' But the so-called 'war on coal" is less a regulatory action than a function of markets", said Thad Lightfoot, who previously worked as a trial attorney with the U.S. Justice Department's environment division and a legislative aide to Democratic former House Speaker Thomas Foley.
"As much as we want to see progress made with clean air and clean water, with an understanding that we can also grow jobs, we have to do so within the framework of what Congress has passed", Pruitt said.
The Natural Resources Defense Council vowed to wage a legal fight to protect the rule, which President Barack Obama passed in 2015 with the goal of significantly reducing carbon emissions by 2030.More news: Columbus Day should be a national holiday
"By repealing the Clean Power Plan, the Trump Administration will throw out an affordable, flexible, and life-saving plan to cut risky carbon pollution from power plants, giving the fossil fuel industry a free pass to keep polluting our air while our families pay the price", Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said today in a statement.
But the EPA is now set to say that a regulation affecting the broader electricity sector is outside the agency's purview.
Trump has voiced doubts about the science of climate change and has blamed Obama's efforts to reduce carbon emissions for hurting the coal mining and oil drilling industries. Obama's EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy, called the proposal "just plain backwards".
The new plan will save an estimated 240 million tons of annual coal production and safeguard more than 27,000 mining jobs and nearly 100,000 additional jobs throughout the supply chain, he said. In March, the president signed an executive order directing agencies to review regulations that might impede the coal industry, which included the CPP.
Liz Perera, climate policy director for the Sierra Club, said repealing the Clean Power Plan "is about one thing and one thing only: helping corporate polluters profit".