The Trump administration today introduced a new EPA rule meant to preserve the U.S. coal industry, despite opposition from environmentalists.
Gone are Obama-era EPA targets that would have pushed states to cut carbon dioxide emissions by reducing dependence on coal in favor of natural gas and renewables.
The EPA’s new replacement rule instead allows states to determine how, or if, coal-fired plants should be upgraded to reduce emissions.
Environmental advocates argue the rule doesn’t reduce CO2 emissions enough.
That includes Miles City rancher and Northern Plains Resource Council member Mark Fix, who links global warming to Montana’s recent severe fire seasons, including one that burned some of his land several years ago.
“It seems like they’re kind of giving up on it and basically ignoring climate change. Which is kind of too bad because it seems like we as farmers and ranchers are looking at a lot of climate change impacts," he says. "We got to keep going forward to address climate change so that we're making strides in the right direction instead of the wrong.”
President Trump has rejected scientific evidence that burning fossil fuels threatens the climate and human health, even from many of his own federal agencies.
An EPA report from last year noted that its new rule would kill an extra 300 to 1,500 people each year by 2030 due to extra air pollution.
Although the Trump Administration has rolled back key Obama-era initiatives to reduce coal use, cheap natural gas and renewable energy have still contributed to a trend of plant closings in recent years.
Despite that, coal continues to provide Montana serious revenue. A report produced for the Environmental Quality Council last year said coal taxes bring in about $81 million per year.
Shelby DeMars, with the Montana Association of Oil, Gas, & Coal Counties, says regulations, not just market forces, play an integral role in determining coal’s sustainability going forward.
“Our coal industry is incredibly vital to the state of Montana and the revenue that it produces is really essential to our counties and municipalities across the state. And it’s really critical that we continue to consider the impact that regulations have on our coal industry," she says.
Environmental groups have already pledged to challenge the rule change in court.