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The EPA Publishes Its Proposed Replacement for the Clean Power Plan

The Environmental Protection Agency published on Tuesday a proposed rule to replace Obama-era proposed regulations on coal power plants.

Called the Affordable Clean Energy rule, it calls for less strict reductions to important air pollutants and more state power over how they regulate plants, compared to the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan. The EPA will now gather public comment on the Affordable Clean Energy rule for the next 60 days. Meanwhile, the Clean Power Plan has been on hold for the last year and a half because of legal challenges.

"Today's proposal provides the states and regulated community the certainty they need to continue environmental progress while fulfilling President [Donald] Trump's goal of energy dominance," EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement. The rule could save power plants up to $6.4 billion on compliance costs, compared to the Clean Power Plan, depending on how states choose to implement it, according to a bullet-point overview published alongside the rule itself.

Work from the EPA also suggests what the costs may be in pollution and health. The Affordable Clean Energy rule would only cut important air pollutants by 2 percent or less over the next decade, according to projections by the EPA that the Washington Post reported on last weekend. In contrast, the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan would have cut America's carbon dioxide emissions by 19 percent, nitrogen oxide by 22 percent, and mercury by 16 to 17 percent.

In addition, under the Affordable Clean Energy rule, 470 to 1,400 people are expected to die prematurely every year by 2030 because of small-particle pollution, according to technical documents accompanying the rule. (The New York Times first reported on these numbers.) The Clean Power Plan had been expected to prevent 1,500 to 3,600 premature deaths from air pollution, the Obama administration argued.