Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan is joining a multi-state lawsuit to fight Trump administration efforts to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, a creation of the Obama administration that seeks to restrict emissions from power plants.
The Environmental Protection Agency is looking to replace the old CPP with the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, which seeks to loosen emission standards.
In the lawsuit, Vermont is joining 21 other states, the District of Columbia and six cities.
“Today’s action is the latest step in our fight for the Clean Power Plan,” Donovan said in a press release. “The climate crisis is real. It is already impacting Vermont with increasingly severe storms and rising temperatures that threaten our maple and snow sport industries.
“The Clean Power Plan plays a key role in protecting our environment. My office has been fighting for the Clean Power Plan — and our environment — for years and we’re not going to stop.”
The release claims that the CPP would reduce climate change pollution by the equivalent of 160 million cars per year. It also states that the Trump plan only puts emission restrictions on coal-power plants, whereas the CPP included gas-fired plants as well. It adds that the CPP allows utilities to shift energy generation over to natural gas, wind and solar in order to meet compliance, whereas this new plan is less flexible.
“The Vermont Attorney General has been active in defending the Clean Power Plan for years and was a member of the coalitions that intervened in defense of the Clean Power Plan and the companion rule for new power plants against legal challenges in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2015,” it states.
This is not the first time the Obama energy policy was involved in litigation. During Obama’s time in office, 24 states sued to prevent the CPP from being enacted and the Supreme Court acted to temporarily halt its implementation.
Obama long ago made his intentions clear when it comes to energy policy and the fate of coal power plants in an interview with the San Fransisco Chronical in 2008.
“So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted,” he said.
According to a DailyCaller.com report, the Obama era regulations would have done serious damage to the coal industry, which remains one of the cheaper forms of energy.
“Obama’s rule was expected to force more coal power plants and mines to close down, costing thousands of jobs in the process,” the report states. “Nearly 40 percent of coal-fired power capacity has been retired or announced plans to retired as a result of market forces, technological change and an increase in regulations, according to some experts.”
The article continues that if the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the case and if they rule in favor of the Trump administration, it could set the precedent that the Clean Air Act does not permit governments to enact sweeping restrictions on energy production.
A report by the Institute for Energy Research suggests that new coal powerplant technology filters out most dangerous emissions.
“According to the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), a new pulverized coal plant (operating at lower, ‘subcritical’ temperatures and pressures) reduces the emission of NOx [nitrogen oxide] by 83 percent, SO2 [sulfur dioxide] by 98 percent and PM [particulate matter] by 99.8 percent, as compared with a similar plant having no pollution controls. Undoubtedly, air quality will continue to improve in the future because of improved technology.”
William Short, an energy consultant based in New York City, said, “the [CPP] would put great burdens on fossil generation and very heavy burdens on coal.”
He added that any struggle over the fate of coal power is almost a moot point because at the moment natural gas is much cheaper and outputs half the emissions of coal.
“Nothing in the near-term is going to change that conclusion,” he told True North in an email. “With $2/MMBTU [British thermal unit] gas at the burner tip, you generate electricity at $14/MWh [megawatt hour]. For an oil-fired plant, the oil would have to cost about $8/bbl [barrel] at the burner tip and, for a coal-fired plant, the coal at the burner tip would have to cost $31/ton to match the cost of natural gas-fired power. Today, oil is closer to $50-60/bbl and coal delivered to New England is probably closer to $90-100/ton.”