by Sarah Bowman
Under a new federal energy proposal aimed at dismantling Obama-era limits on greenhouse gas emissions, Indiana utilities could scrap plans to shut down several coal-fired power plants.
It’s unclear how the utilities will react if the plan released Tuesday by the Environmental Protection Agency is eventually adopted, but advocates and opponents are already lining up.
Coal industry officials see the Affordable Clean Energy plan proposed by President Donald Trump’s administration as a life preserver at a time when utility executives are increasingly turning to natural gas and renewable energy sources.
“We are very hopeful and encouraged that this will now provide the opportunity for utilities in Indiana who have announced or are considering coal plant closures, that there will be some reconsideration,” said Bruce Stevens, president of the Indiana Coal Council.
But the Trump Administration’s own analysis predicts the plan would put higher levels of dangerous pollutants in the air, causing as many as 1,500 additional premature deaths annually by 2030 from heart and lung disease.
The proposal is expected to meet stern resistance from people concerned about climate change and air pollution, during what is expected to be a lengthy approval process.
“The Trump proposal is unlawful, unacceptable and won’t succeed at saving the coal industry,” said Wendy Bredhold, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal efforts in Indiana. “Trump’s Dirty Power Plan won’t stop our progress.”
Whether the plan is eventually adopted, or becomes tied up in litigation like a previous Obama proposal remains an open question.
McCabe, who worked on the Obama Administration’s plan, sees the Trump plan as undermining efforts to slow climate change and protect public health. “I think this plan shows there is no commitment from the current administration to address climate change,” she said. “Zero.”
She said the word “health” is rarely mentioned in the plan, “but that is what the Clean Air program is about, protecting public health and welfare and the environment.”