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ENVIRONMENT Gov: Trump emissions plan dumps on state

August 25, 2018

A Trump administration proposal to scrap strict emissions standards for coal-powered electric plants is drawing fire from Connecticut activists who worry about more “bad air” days.

“President Trump continues to cave to the will of polluters and is once again rolling back commonsense protections — and it will not only exacerbate climate change, it will make our air dirtier and expose people to pollution,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said.

“Trump’s own EPA estimates that as many as 1,400 people per year will die prematurely because of the increased pollution caused by this backwards rule, and as a downwind state Connecticut will be disproportionately affected,” he said.

President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency last week proposed scrapping the Obama-era Clean Power Plan and replacing it with new regulations that hand states more authority to set their own air pollution standards.

The Obama rule sought to replace coal-fired plants with facilities that use cleaner energy and mandated that coal plants cut emissions by a third by 2030.

Connecticut for years has complained about — and filed lawsuits over — pollution from Midwestern coal-fired power plants that wafts into the state on prevailing winds and causes health problems, including asthma and lung disorders.

The smog also factors into preventing the state from meeting Greenhouse gas reduction mandates and goals.

‘Choke the lungs’

The Trump proposal is “an egregious act” that will lead to premature deaths, lost school days and thousands of additional asthma attacks, said Leah Lopez-Schmalz, chief program officer for the Connecticut Fund for the Environment.

“Pollution and airborne chemicals don’t respect state lines and the dirty air from Midwestern power plants will continue to choke the lungs of our children hundreds of miles away,” Schmalz said.

“It will now be up to the states to maintain clean air standards,” Schmaltz said. ’It is more critical than ever for Connecticut legislators to continue to move away from dirty fossil fuels by expanding renewable energy and ensuring Connecticut meets our state’s greenhouse gas reduction targets on time.”

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, said the Trump rule is good for the environment and the economy.

“[The] proposal provides the states and regulated community the certainty they need to continue environmental progress while fulfilling President Trump’s goal of energy dominance,” Wheeler said.

The EPA called the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan “overly prescriptive and burdensome.”

The proposal now goes to EPA’s lengthy and complex rule making process, which involves months of public comment and hearings.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Gov. Jay Inslee have already announced pending court challenges.

“It’s an affront to people who want to breathe clean air,” Inslee said last week during a news conference.

Pockets of support

The new EPA rule replaces Obama-era regulations that were stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016. A number of Red states, upset over what they perceived as regulatory overreach, filed court challenges to block the rule.

After taking office, Trump vowed to rewrite the clean power rule. The administration is also working to reverse dozens of other Obama-era environmental regulations, including strict car emissions standards.

“We’re ending the intrusive EPA regulations that kill jobs,” Trump said in a White House statement.

The Clean Power Plan did help nudge the owners of some coal-fired electric plants to shut down, including the decades-old coal burner along Bridgeport’s harbor.

There has also been a steady reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and significant growth in the renewable and clean energy industry.

Karen Harbert, president of the Global Energy Institute, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, praised the Trump plan.

“This revised approach will help continue the trend of lower electric power sector emissions while preserving America’s energy edge and respecting environmental law,” Harbert said.

Climate and health

But the proposal is another setback in combatting climate change, said Robert Klee, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

“The Connecticut DEEP, unlike the current EPA, will continue to make policy decisions informed by the best science available, not special interests,” Klee said.

The American Public Health Association said the proposed rule brings considerable health risks, including exacerbated asthma, increased cardiovascular hospital admissions, respiratory illness, lost work days and more school absence days.

“It will weaken oversight by allowing states to set their own, less comprehensive regulations for power plants,” the APHA said.

bcummings@ctpost.com

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