Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Trump Administration's Clean Power Plan Replacement Rule
On January 19, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that the Trump-era Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule fails to provide adequate environmental and public health protections and should therefore be vacated and remanded. The decision came just one day before former President Trump was set to leave office, marking a major blow to the outgoing President’s agenda, which aimed to limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
In an unsigned opinion, the court wrote that "The question in this case is whether the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acted lawfully in adopting the 2019 Affordable Clean Energy Rule (ACE Rule), as a means of regulating power plants' emissions of greenhouse gases. It did not.” In finding that the Trump administration skirted the intention of the law, the court has recanted the ACE rule, as well as the extended timeline that the administration had granted for states to comply with greenhouse gas emissions regulations set by the Clean Energy Air Act.
The Trump rule was established to upend an Obama-era regulation that sought to curb national greenhouse gas emissions. The Trump administration created the rule to extend the life of coal-fire power plants, however, in ruling that the Trump administrations ACE rule violated the Clean Air Act, it is unlikely the rule will be re-written to meet legal requirements, given the new Biden administration’s support for curbing emissions. Instead, it is likely that EPA be directed to update the standard to comply with Clean Air Act emission targets.