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Trump aims to reverse Obama rule on power plant emissions

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration plans to scrap former president Barack Obama’s signature plan for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from the nation’s power plants, arguing that the previous administration overstepped its legal authority.

The proposal is expected to be made public in the coming days.

It comes months after President Trump issued a directive instructing the Environmental Protection Agency to begin rewriting the controversial 2015 regulation, known as the Clean Power Plan, as part of a broader effort to obliterate his predecessor’s efforts to make combating climate change a top government priority.

In a copy of the proposed repeal, first reported by Bloomberg News, the EPA does not offer an alternative plan for regulating emissions of carbon dioxide, which the Supreme Court has ruled that the agency is obligated to do.


Rather, the agency said it plans to seek public input on how best to cut emissions from natural-gas and coal-fired power plants.

‘‘Any replacement rule that the Trump Administration proposes will be done carefully and properly, within the confines of the law,’’ EPA spokesperson Liz Bowman said in an e-mail.

A central piece of Obama’s environmental legacy, the Clean Power Plan aims to slash the greenhouse-gas emissions that scientists agree are fueling the planet’s rapid warming. It also was an integral part of the commitment US officials made as part of a historic international climate accord signed in late 2015 in Paris, from which Trump has said he intends to withdraw.

The Clean Power Plan directed every state to form detailed plans to reduce CO2 emissions from such sources as coal-fired power plants, with the goal of decreasing carbon pollution by about one-third by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. But the regulation has been a lightning rod since its inception.

Environmental groups and other supporters have called it a much-needed measure to help nudge the nation toward cleaner sources of energy.


Representatives of the oil and gas industry and other opponents argue that the EPA’s regulations would unfairly force power-plant owners to shut down or essentially subsidize competing clean-energy industries.

From the start, the effort has been mired in litigation.

The central case in that fight, West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, has had an unusual legal path.

Early last year, the Supreme Court blocked the regulation’s implementation after 27 states and a host of other opponents challenged its legality. Its 5-to-4 decision, which did not address the merits of the lawsuit, came just days before the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

With the Clean Power Plan’s future on the line, a 10-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last September held a marathon day of oral arguments on the case, trying to decipher whether the Obama administration’s proposal went too far in trying to compel power plants to cut carbon-dioxide emissions.

But that court failed to issue a ruling before the Trump administration took office and requested time to reconsider the Clean Power Plan’s future.

In a separate development, Trump said late Thursday that a meeting with his military leaders was “the calm before the storm,” but what he meant by the comment remained unclear, both to the press assembled in the room and to members of his staff.

When pressed for more details, the president said, “you’ll find out,” a declaration that comes amid foreign policy challenges around the world.


Trump’s comment, before a planned dinner with military leaders and their spouses, raised questions about whether the administration was planning some kind of military action. For weeks, Trump has been promising to respond to any North Korean aggression toward the United States.

Several aides said afterward they had no idea to what he was referring.

The president also faces an Oct. 15 deadline to recertify a nuclear weapons deal with Iran, which was negotiated under Obama. The president is expected to decline to recertify the agreement, which would essentially allow Congress to decide whether to reimpose economic sanctions.

In his remarks to senior military leaders before the dinner, Trump outlined the challenges facing the United States.

“We have had challenges that we really should have taken care of a long time ago, like North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, ISIS, and the revisionist powers that threaten our interests all around the world,” Trump said.

“Tremendous progress has been made with respect to ISIS, and I guess the media is going to be finding out about that over the next short period of time,” he said.

He also denounced Iran, saying it should not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons, and offered another stark warning to North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

‘‘We cannot allow this dictatorship to threaten our nation or allies with unimaginable loss of life,’’ he said, vowing to ‘‘do what we must do to prevent that from happening and it will be done, if necessary.’’