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EPA proposes rule replacing Obama climate policy

Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency officially proposed a rule Tuesday setting limits on carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants, which replaces a far more aggressive plan issued by former President Barack Obama.

Why it matters: It’s a tacit acknowledgment by the Trump administration that it’s legally required to regulate carbon emissions — even though most officials don’t acknowledge climate change is a problem.

Reality check: Trump officials will tout how this rule will stop what they call Obama’s war on coal, but independent analysts say coal’s decline will continue, and is fueled largely by cheaper natural gas and renewables anyway.

The details: The rule, called the Affordable Clean Energy rule, calls for reduction of CO2 emissions within a plant’s fence line only, instead of across a company’s fleet, which is what Obama’s rule did. Trump’s rule also gives significant flexibility to states.

Flashback: Obama’s rule was the cornerstone of his administration’s commitment to the Paris climate deal, from which Trump has vowed to withdraw the United States. Obama’s rule never went into effect, though. The Supreme Court took the unusual step of temporarily blocking it in early 2016, as it faced legal challenges from more than two dozen states.

  • That’s a sign of how difficult it is to address climate change through regulations, instead of legislation.

What’s next: The proposal will go through a public notice and comment period before going final. Expect lawsuits from left-leaning states and environmental groups to ensue as soon at that time.