President Trump's Environmental Protection Agency took the first step Monday toward proposing its own version of climate change regulations for coal-fired power plants.
The Trump climate rule would replace the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan with a much more limited version of the greenhouse gas rules for existing power plants.
Eliminating the Obama-era climate plan is a key part of President Trump's deregulation agenda. The EPA proposed repealing the plan in October, saying that the plan "exceeds the agency's statutory authority."
Monday's action is the second step in the repeal process by finding a replacement for the climate change rule that satisfies the EPA's legal requirements. The Trump climate rule would be scaled back from former President Barack Obama's regulation.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt emphasized that any replacement for the Clean Power Plan would be confined within the law, whereas Obama's critics say his administration sought to overreach in its interpretation of the Clean Air Act.
"Today’s move ensures adequate and early opportunity for public comment from all stakeholders about next steps the agency might take to limit greenhouse gases from stationary sources, in a way that properly stays within the law, and the bounds of the authority provided to EPA by Congress," Pruitt said.
Pruitt's action on Monday is what is known as an "advanced notice" of a proposal, which means the EPA is in the information-gathering stage of developing a regulation.
The EPA will take comment from the energy industry and other groups on what they think should be included in the replacement plan. After the comment period ends, Pruitt and the agency with determine whether it should move ahead.
Based on the advanced notice, EPA will be looking at ways to improve efficiency at coal plants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions while increasing the performance of the plants.
Environmentalists criticized the administration's attempt at rewriting climate rules as stalling tactics toward a "do-nothing substitute."
"Even as EPA actively works towards finalizing its misguided October proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan, EPA today indicates it may not put anything at all in the Plan's place — or may delay for years and issue a do-nothing substitute that won't make meaningful cuts in the carbon pollution that's driving dangerous climate change," said Earthjustice president Trip Van Noppen.
"EPA's misguided strategy not only fails to tackle the carbon pollution that is driving climate change, but also would produce 4,500 premature deaths each year from other pollutants the Clean Power Plan would cut," Van Noppen said.
Meanwhile, business groups welcomed the process that they hope will lead to a "better way" of regulating greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Chamber of Commerce.
“Today starts the process of developing a better way to approach greenhouse gas regulations than the Clean Power Plan," said Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the Chamber’s Global Energy Institute.
"Our hope is that today’s request for input will begin a true collaboration between the federal government, states and all stakeholders to develop a more durable and achievable approach to addressing carbon emissions," Harbert said. The new approach should lower emissions, preserve America’s energy advantage, and respect the boundaries of the Clean Air Act. We look forward to participating in the process.”