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Piles of coal in front of Pacificorp's 1440 megawatt coal fired power plant in Castle Dale, Utah. Photo: AFP

Trump’s environment chief says ‘war on coal is over’ as US ends Obama’s clean power rules

Trump’s effort to undo Barack Obama’s centrepiece regulation to fight climate change is part of a broader target to revive the coal industry and boost domestic fossil fuels production

Donald Trump

The head of the US Environmental Protection Agency said that he would sign a new rule overriding the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era effort to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

“Here’s the president’s message: the war on coal is over,” EPA administrator Scott Pruitt declared in the coal mining state of Kentucky Monday, at an event with the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.

For Pruitt, getting rid of the Clean Power Plan will mark the culmination of a long fight he began as the elected attorney general of Oklahoma. Pruitt was among about two-dozen attorneys general who sued to stop Obama’s push to limit carbon emissions.

Closely tied to the oil and gas industry in his home state, Pruitt rejects the consensus of scientists that emissions from burning fossil fuels are the primary driver of global climate change.

Donald Trump, who appointed Pruitt and shares his scepticism of established climate science, promised to kill the clean power plan during the 2016 campaign as part of his broader pledge to revive the nation’s struggling coal mines.

In his order on Tuesday, Pruitt was expected to declare that the Obama-era rule exceeded federal law by setting emissions standards that power plants could not reasonably meet.

Appearing in Hazard, Kentucky, Pruitt said: “The EPA and no federal agency should ever use its authority to say to you we are going to declare war on any sector of our economy.”

Obama’s plan was designed to cut US carbon dioxide emissions to 32 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. The rule dictated specific emission targets for states based on power-plant emissions and gave officials broad latitude to decide how to achieve reductions.

The supreme court put the plan on hold last year following legal challenges by industry and coal-friendly states.

Even so, the plan helped drive a recent wave of retirements of coal-fired plants, which also are being squeezed by lower costs for natural gas and renewable power, as well as state mandates promoting energy conservation.

The withdrawal of the clean power plan is the latest in a series of moves by Trump and Pruitt to dismantle Obama’s legacy on fighting climate change, including the delay or roll back of rules limiting levels of toxic pollution in chimney emissions and waste water discharges from coal-burning power plants.

The president announced earlier this year that he will pull the US out of the landmark Paris climate agreement. Nearly 200 countries have committed to combat global warming by reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Trump’s EPA chief says ‘war on coal’ is over in US