This week EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said he will sign a rule to begin the process of rolling back the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. The purpose of the plan was initially to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants in an attempt to “slow down” global warming. However, market realities quickly revealed the “green power” options were not economically feasible enough to stand on their own without heavy federal money subsidies.
The Supreme Court has the rule in limbo since February 2016, after 27 states and other opponents filed suit saying the requirement for states to devise plans to reduce planet-warming emissions by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 was an excessive use of the EPA’s regulatory powers.
So what does this mean for coal producers? Some experts say weakening the Clean Power Plan will not change the fortunes of big coal which has already surrendered significant market share to cheap, abundant U.S. natural gas. Larger investor-owned utilities are retiring older, inefficient coal-fired plants because they are too costly to retrofit.
Since 2010, coal has dropped from providing 45% of the nation’s energy to a projected 32% in 2018, with natural gas at 33% and renewable energy slowly creeping up to just 17% from 2010 levels of 10%.
Environmental groups are already gearing up to take the issue to the courts with legal action and protests.