Despite Trump Talk, Coal Continues Fade to Black

June 25, 2019

Chicago Tribune:

As President Donald Trump attempts to prop up the nation’s dwindling coal industry, Illinois is taking another step away from its dirtiest source of electricity.

Under a deal brokered by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration, the Texas-based owner of eight coal-fired power plants in central and southern Illinois agreed last week to shutter 40% of its fleet by the end of the year.

Vistra Energy will be allowed to choose which units it retires and might scrap some of its cleaner power plants instead of the dirtiest. But the company’s agreement with the state’s new Democratic governor is far more stringent than industry-friendly rules proposed two years ago by former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Rauner’s plan would have allowed Vistra to dramatically increase its emissions of lung-damaging and climate-changing pollution. Instead, the state-imposed limits brokered by the Pritzker administration are slightly higher than the fleet’s emissions during the past five years and will become more restrictive every time a coal plant closes for good.

The agreement is another sign that Illinois, like many other states, isn’t turning back from a steady shift to cleaner sources of electricity, despite Trump’s move last week to gut national climate pollution standards adopted by former President Barack Obama.

It appears the only question is whether Trump’s latest rollback of environmental regulations will enable some coal-fired power plants to keep running longer than expected, slowing the transition to wind, solar and other forms of clean energy that are quickly becoming less expensive than coal.

“The market is changing and coal increasingly can’t compete,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center, who likened Trump’s efforts to bail out the industry to “subsidizing landline telephones while the cellular market grows bigger and bigger.”

Under the Trump rewrite of Obama’s Clean Power Plan, states can exempt certain coal plants from doing anything to reduce pollution that is steadily changing the planet’s climate. It is one of several attempts by the Trump administration to protect the coal and oil industries by scrapping clean air and water regulations enacted during Obama’s eight years in office.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler argued that the Trump climate plan isn’t a rollback because the Obama-era regulations never fully took effect. Wheeler is a former lobbyist for Murray Energy Corp., an Ohio-based coal company that has spearheaded many of the attacks on environmental regulations.

But an EPA analysis acknowledges that when compared with the Obama rules, more Americans will end up dying early from exposure to pollution emitted by coal plants under the Trump version.

One Response to “Despite Trump Talk, Coal Continues Fade to Black”

  1. SmarterThanYourAverageBear Says:

    Nice, and certainly going in the right direction, but it would have been a better deal if it stipulated the dirtiest plants must go first

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