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A view from a residential area of the smoke stack of the Cheswick coal-fired power plant in Springdale, Pennsylvania. Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

Potential Trump administration moves to prop up coal-fired and nuclear power plants for two years would cause an estimated 353 to 815 pollution-related premature deaths and modestly boost carbon emissions, analysts with a non-partisan think tank said.

Why it matters: The just-published study by researchers working with Resources For the Future represents an early attempt to quantify the effects of brewing, highly controversial plans to aggressively intervene in power markets on behalf of economically struggling coal and nuclear generators.

The backdrop: An internal White House memo that Bloomberg obtained in late May envisions sweeping use of federal powers to aid economically-struggling plants for two years.

  • That's meant to buy time for a wider analysis of cyber and physical vulnerabilities in the nation's electricity system. Energy Department officials argue that coal and nuclear plants are vital to system resilience, claiming that gas pipelines, among other infrastructure, are vulnerable to attacks.
  • Critics of the plan — who range from the natural gas industry to environmentalists to various power market analysts — accuse the administration of manufacturing a national security rationale for its longstanding goal of helping the coal industry.

The big picture: In the two-year window, the plan helps coal much more than nuclear because more coal generation is at risk of closure during that period, leading to more emissions of traditional pollutants and greenhouse gases.

One level deeper: The study, as a baseline, assumes the Trump administration plan would delay retirement of an estimated 7,800 megawatts of coal-fired generation capacity and 1,100 megawatts of nuclear capacity over two years.

  • Additional emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from those coal plants would cause as many as 815 deaths.
  • The authors call these mortality estimates "conservative" for various reasons. They note, for instance, that the number of plants prevented from retiring could be larger than they modeled.
  • The net carbon emissions from the policy would be an estimated 22 million short tons over the two years, which the study notes is roughly the amount emitted annually by 4.3 million cars.

Other impacts: The plan would support 1,580 coal mining jobs over the two years, but "might reduce economy-wide employment due to its effects in other sectors, write Daniel Shawhan, an economist who works with RFF, and researcher Paul Picciano.

  • "These results indicate that each year, one American would die from air pollution for every two to 4.5 coal mining jobs supported by the policy.

Go deeper: The climate stakes of Trump's power move.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.