Judge Strikes Down Signature Trump Environmental Policy

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On Tuesday, outgoing President Donald Trump’s final full day in office, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down a plan that the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hoped to use as a replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. Predictably, the Trump administration’s rule that the court struck down provided significantly lower levels of environmental protection. The court “directed EPA to start over with a new regulatory approach after finding that the agency’s Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule failed to provide adequate environmental and public health protections,” E&E News reports.

Under the Trump administration’s Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, the only permitted approach to lowering greenhouse gas emissions was “technological retrofits that could be applied to individual facilities,” E&E News explains, and these retrofits could inappropriately “extend the life of coal-fired power plants,” the plan’s critics noted. The court bluntly concluded as follows:

‘The question in this case is whether the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acted lawfully in adopting the 2019 Affordable Clean Energy Rule (ACE Rule), as a means of regulating power plants’ emissions of greenhouse gases. It did not.’

E&E News characterizes the new ruling as “a resounding blow to EPA’s efforts to more strictly limit its authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.” Originally, the Obama era Clean Power Plan “emphasized the use of lower-emitting fuels and carbon trading to meet states’ emissions targets,” the outlet explains. Besides the fundamental change in federal demands, the Trump administration’s rule also offered an extended deadline for state-level compliance with the environmental protection provisions — and the D.C. appeals court also struck down this extended compliance deadline.

A push towards deregulation has been a defining feature of much of the Trump administration’s environmental action. Last year, the Trump administration implemented an updated version of the so-called Waters of the United States rule that eliminated certain areas from federal supervision, potentially creating an opening for substantial additional pollution getting into the environment. No matter the potential environmental impacts, the change was “a long-time priority for farmers, ranchers, home-builders and other industries,” POLITICO explains — and the Trump administration consistently proved its affinity for big business while in power. Going forward, among other steps, President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to swiftly rejoin the Paris Climate Accord.