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Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a final rule Wednesday replacing former President Obama's signature Clean Power Plan (CPP) with a far more modest version controlling carbon dioxide emissions from America’s coal plants.

The big picture: This fight, like many in Washington, is big on symbolism and lacking in substance. While it was supposed to help President Trump save the coal industry and gut the heart of his predecessor's climate agenda in one swoop, the reality tells another story.

Reality check: America's coal industry continues to decline, driven by a host of factors separate from the Obama-era regulation, largely — but not only — because plentiful supplies of natural gas provide power companies a cheap, cleaner-burning alternative.

  • Meanwhile, the CPP never actually went into effect, despite the hype from Obama administration officials and environmentalists. In an unusual move, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the final rule in February 2016 to let litigation play out.

Details: The rule aims to reduce power-plant CO2 emissions by as much as 35% below 2005 levels in 2030, according to the EPA, which said this decline is also due to "expected industry trends," highlighting the ongoing shift away from coal to natural gas and renewable energy — irrespective of both Obama's rule and Trump's efforts to repeal it.

  • Between the lines: The EPA's assessment is an implicit acknowledgement that its new rule isn’t going to bring back coal.
  • America's greenhouse gas emissions, like much of the rest of the world's, ebb and flow with economic growth and demand. After a marked decline due to the shift from coal to natural gas, which burns far less CO2 than coal, U.S. energy-related emissions are expected to decline again slightly in the coming years.

The intrigue: Myron Ebell, a top director at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank that disputes that climate change is a problem, said Wednesday that his group will likely sue EPA over the rule, arguing the law doesn’t allow such regulation on CO2.

  • Ebell, who was an adviser to the Trump transition team, said this would be the first lawsuit his group would file against Trump’s EPA, which has been mostly pushing policies Ebell supports.

What's next: Expect lawsuits from environmental groups and Democratic-led states. In other deregulatory news, EPA's other big controversial rollback — freezing Obama's auto efficiency standards — is expected soon.

Go deeper: The U.S. coal industry is choking

Go deeper

Updated 27 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Education: Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong puts tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge — Pfizer to supply 40 million vaccine doses to lower-income countries — Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca vaccine.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

DOJ: Capitol rioter threatened to "assassinate" Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Supporters of former President Trump storm the U.S. Captiol on Jan. 6. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A Texas man who has been charged with storming the U.S. Capitol in the deadly Jan. 6 siege posted death threats against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the Department of Justice said.

The big picture: Garret Miller faces five charges in connection to the riot by supporters of former President Trump, including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and making threats. According to court documents, Miller posted violent threats online the day of the siege, including tweeting “Assassinate AOC.”

Schumer calls for IG probe into alleged plan by Trump, DOJ lawyer to oust acting AG

Jeffrey Clark speaks next to Deputy US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen at a news conference in October. Photo: Yuri Gripas/AFP via Getty Images.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Saturday called for the Justice Department inspector general to investigate an alleged plan by former President Trump and a DOJ lawyer to remove the acting attorney general and replace him with someone more willing to investigate unfounded claims of election fraud.

Driving the news: The New York Times first reported Friday that the lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, allegedly devised "ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. [Jeffrey] Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark."