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Local environmental groups weigh in on federal court ruling on loosened regulations

PARKERSBURG — A local environmental group supports a federal court’s ruling overturning a Trump administration rule that loosened regulations for greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel-fired power plants.

The Affordable Clean Energy Rule promulgated last year by the Environmental Protection Agency to replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan on carbon dioxide emissions was flawed, an appeals court for the District of Columbia said this week. The decision sends the rule back to the EPA and reinstates the Clean Power Plan that requires, among other things, reductions of carbon dioxide emissions of about a third by 2030.

The appeals court “made an incredibly wise decision with regard to the Trump administration’s Affordable Clean Energy Rule,” said Eric Engle, chairman of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action, a local organization promoting awareness of climate change and what impacts climate.

“In the ruling, a three-judge panel, according to the Washington Post, said that the purpose of the Trump admin rule was ‘to slow the process for reduction of emissions’ and the court called that ‘arbitrary and capricious,'” Engle said.

Engle and Giulia Mannarino, also a representative of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action, testified before the EPA during a hearing in Charleston when the agency was considering replacing the Clean Power Plan. Besides greenhouse gas emissions, health impacts from the emissions also were cited.

“Numerous other (Climate Action) members submitted public comments for the same reason in other ways at that time,” Engle said. “We feel vindicated that the D.C. court’s decision essentially reinstates the Clean Power Plan with the Biden administration now at the helm. This is a win for a more stable climate and a cleaner, safer environment.”

The decision by the court means the new Biden administration can develop its own rule without having to first undo the Trump administration’s rule, the Environmental Defense Fund said. Joe Biden became the new president on Wednesday.

Joanne Spalding, the chief climate counsel for the Sierra Club, which has opposed the rule change, said the decision is “the apt bookend to the Trump Administration’s EPA, which was defined by a general subservience to the fossil fuel industry and dozens of legal defeats brought by public health and environmental organizations.” The Trump EPA rule is referred to as the Dirty Power Plan by the Sierra Club.

“Despite (former EPA Director) Andrew Wheeler’s frequent protests, the EPA’s role is to protect the American people from dangerous pollution and act on the greatest threat to our country: the climate crisis,” she said. “The Dirty Power Plan didn’t do either of these things and the court rightly vacated it. We now look forward to the Biden Administration keeping its promise and acting aggressively to restore the EPA to its institutional mandate and put its resources and expertise toward solving problems, not creating more of them.”

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