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Trump moves to relax carbon limits on power plants

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration on Tuesday proposed relaxing pollution standards for power plants nationwide, a move that could slow the decline of U.S. carbon emissions and lead to hundreds more premature deaths, and thousands of asthma attacks and missed school days.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Affordable Clean Energy rule, which President Donald Trump planned to tout at a roundtable meeting in Charleston, W.Va., on Tuesday evening, represents the administration’s most ambitious proposal to bolster the nation’s coal industry. Although it probably would have a modest impact on curbing carbon dioxide emissions in the power sector, it could potentially increase human health risks from other pollutants.

The measure, which would replace an Obama-era rule that set strict carbon dioxide limits for each state and encouraged the shuttering of coal plants, is likely to widen the environmental policy divide between red and blue states.

In New Mexico, the clean power plan rollback is unlikely to alter Public Service Co. of New Mexico’s plan to shut down the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station near Farmington in 2022, nor the utility’s likely withdrawal from the nearby Four Corners Power Plant in 2032, if not sooner. That’s because market economics, not government regulations, are dictating the utility’s decision, which is based on declining costs for natural gas and renewable energy generation compared with coal, according to PNM executives.

Still, New Mexico’s two democratic senators, Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, both strongly criticized the EPA’s announcement.

“President Trump is taking us in the completely wrong direction,” Heinrich said in a prepared statement. “When we know exactly what we need to do to reduce our contributions to climate change – and when we have the capability to create thousands of new jobs and build a thriving clean energy economy – President Trump’s decision to retreat from leadership is shortsighted, willfully ignorant, and immoral.”

Udall called it a “big win for polluters.”

“The EPA’s new rule guts the clean power plan, the latest – and most damaging – chapter in this administration’s campaign to surrender the fight against climate change,” Udall said. “Today’s announcement represents head-in-the-sand denial of climate science and a giveaway to corporate polluters on the backs of future generations, plain and simple.”

“We’re pleased that the proposed rule recognizes and respects the environmental and energy needs of each state,” said John Mura, communications director for Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet. His state has made progress in cutting emissions, but 79 percent of its electricity still comes from coal.

Several Democratic leaders said Trump’s proposed rollback is irresponsible.

“This is a declaration of war against America and all of humanity – it will not stand,” California Gov. Jerry Brown, D, said in a statement. “Truth and common sense will triumph over Trump’s insanity.”

Journal staff writer Kevin Robinson-Avila contributed to this report