This week, the Environmental Protection Agency released its proposed Affordable Clean Energy, or ACE, rule which would replace the Obama era Clean Power Plan. The move is coming under fire from environmental groups in our region, who believe it would mean more pollution and acid rain deposition in the Adirondacks.
The EPA says it plans to replace the 2015 Clean Power Plan because it exceeds the agency’s authority under the Clean Air Act. The new Affordable Clean Energy rule allows states to develop greenhouse gas emissions plans for existing coal-fired power plants. Adirondack Council Spokesman John Sheehan says the ACE delays recovery from and renews the threat of acid rain deposition. “The 10 to 12 percent reduction in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that we were expecting from the Clean Power Plan won’t happen now. What we’re going to see is coal plants being rebuilt without being required to meet modern standards.”
Owners of old power plants are required under the current New Source Review rule to install new emissions technology if the plants are rebuilt or refurbished. Adirondack Mountain Club Executive Director Neil Woodworth says the new rule also adjusts New Source Review. “By changing the standards to hourly emissions instead of total emissions it means that they’re going to be producing a lot more of those acid rain, mercury producing, smog producing chemicals and the result will be a lot more air pollution for states like New York and New England.”
Sheehan says climate change, acid rain and human health will get worse as a result of the new rule. “Because acid rain requires loading over a long period of time into the ecosystem we won’t see immediate changes that will be dramatic. However we will see immediate changes that will have dramatic effects on human health. I want to call your attention to a part of the report that they had to issue that says ‘we have identified three short-term morbidity end points.’ Now short-term morbidity end points is really Orwellian language for ‘We’re going to kill people with this rule.’”
Page Communications owner Guy Page is a member of ISO-New England’s consumer coordinating committee. He says while he does not completely support coal, the new rule from the Trump Administration is crucial for New England’s power base. “It will help New England’s energy fuel security especially in the really cold times of the year like this January when we almost ran out of fuel to make electricity and we almost had blackouts. Now the Obama plan, the Clean Power Plan, targeted coal plants for closure and I think in terms of energy security that would be a bad idea. Better to do what the Trump Administration advises which is to improve the efficiency, improve the clean air aspects of these coal plants and keep them around so that when we need them they’re there and we don’t have to worry about blackouts.”
Woodworth is certain there will be a major legal challenge against implementation of the Affordable Clean Energy rule. “Otherwise we risk forfeiting all of the progress that we’ve made in reducing acid rain in New York, in reducing mercury depositions and in general cleaning up the air in New York and in New England. The administration’s Affordable Clean Energy rule essentially takes the United States out of the global effort to reduce carbon dioxide and actually does the unthinkable and that is to add more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”
The EPA will take public comments for 60 days after the rule has been published in the Federal Register.