President Donald Trump has taken another step in dismantling the bold environmental policy of his predecessor, Barack Obama. Last Monday, the Republican White House enacted a measure that lays the groundwork for revoking the Clean Power Plan.
The 2015 program imposed electricity generation related emissions reduction targets on each state. Coal and natural gas used by power plants correspond to approximately a third of all carbon dioxide – a greenhouse effect gas which bolsters global warming – emitted by the American industrial economy.
According to calculations by the former Democrat administration, these cuts would make possible a 32 percent reduction of all environmental pollution generated by power plants by 2030. The initiative was central to its strategy to fulfill the obligations assumed by the United States in the Paris climate agreement of 2015, and created barriers to coal-generated electricity.
When Trump chose Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, it became clear that the attempt to repeal the Clean Power Plan would no longer be a campaign promise, but reality. As attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt led several states in judicial battles against the EPA's plan.
The argument was that the EPA had exceeded its mandate by stipulating objectives that required electricity companies to take action in areas outside their own power plants. Reforming the plants to emit less carbon dioxide would not be enough to achieve the objectives; the plants would also have to rely on clean energy sources such as wind turbines and solar panels.
Now, while in Kentucky, a coal producing state, Pruitt himself has announced the measure to repeal the Clean Power Plan. However, before it can take effect the measure has to pass a public review process, something that could take months.
The Trump administration has not yet announced if it will only repeal the plan or if it will replace it with new, fossil fuel-friendlier rules.
Even state authorities that have sued the EPA alongside Pruitt prefer new rules, because a simple repeal could be challenged in court.
That is the case in Arkansas. Despite suing the EPA, Arkansas has not stopped preparing a transition to cleaner energy sources. Everyone knows that fossil fuel restrictions will eventually come, no matter how much Trump and Pruitt brag about ending the "war on coal.”