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Trump’s plan to rescind climate policies would take years to affect New England

The Mt. Tom coal-fired power plant in Holyoke closed in 2014.Matthew Cavanaugh for the Boston Globe

The Trump administration’s announcement Monday that it intends to scrap the Obama administration’s signature climate policy — a long-range plan to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants — will face sharp resistance from Massachusetts and other states and is unlikely to have any immediate effect on New England.

But environmental groups warn that without stricter regulations, pollution from the Midwest and other states that continue to burn substantial amounts of fossil fuels will continue to undercut efforts to curb greenhouse gases and slow the pace of climate change.

Speaking to coal miners in Kentucky, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, said he would move to repeal the 2015 Clean Power Plan, declaring that “the war against coal is over.”


Massachusetts and other states quickly vowed to challenge the move.

The Clean Power Act, which sought to replace coal-fired power plants with cleaner sources of energy, has never taken effect. In February 2016, the US Supreme Court blocked the plan, which nearly 30 states had sued to halt.

The regulations were projected to eliminate the equivalent of the carbon pollution emitted by more than 160 million vehicles a year, or 70 percent of the nation’s passenger cars.

While the legal battles play out in court, state and regional efforts will continue and are unlikely to be affected by the Trump administration’s plans, environmental advocates said.

“Because the New England states have already set more ambitious goals than the Clean Power Plan targets, the repeal won’t affect these states directly,” said Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group based in Cambridge.

In Massachusetts, the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act requires the state to reduce carbon emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and 80 percent below those levels by 2050.

This summer, the coalition of nine states from Maryland to Maine that make up the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative announced it had agreed to reduce power plant emissions by an additional 30 percent from 2020 to 2030.


That plan, which still has to be approved by each of the states, including Massachusetts, would lower emissions by more than 65 percent since 2009, when the states began setting annual caps.

“The Trump administration could learn a lot from the people of New England,” said Greg Cunningham, director of the clean energy and climate change program at the Conservation Law Foundation in Boston.

He and others noted that RGGI, known as a cap-and-trade program, has reduced emissions and also lowered energy prices.

In a report last year, the Acadia Center found RGGI states reduced emissions by 16 percent more than other states, while the region’s economy had grown 3.6 percent more than the rest of the country. At the same time, energy prices had fallen by an average of 3.4 percent, while electricity rates in other states rose by 7.2 percent.

“While the federal government falters, the RGGI governors are doubling down on the climate program that has slashed harmful pollution while driving economic growth,” said Jordan Stutt, a policy analyst at the Acadia Center, an environmental advocacy group in Boston. “The Trump administration’s decision to shirk its responsibility to address climate change is unjustifiable, but it will not slow down the progress being made in New England.”

Stutt and others said that the Trump administration’s efforts might slow the transition to clean energy from fossil fuels, but they are unlikely to stop it.


“Irrespective of the White House denial of climate change and Administrator [Scott] Pruitt’s about-face on the Clean Power Plan, state and local levels of government can work together to acknowledge the science, obey the Clean Air Act, and lead the way on addressing the impacts of climate change,” said Jack Clarke, director of public policy at Mass Audubon.

David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @davabel.