By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration's proposed replacement for the Obama-era's central regulation on climate change, the Clean Power Plan, is expected to be released by the Environmental Protection Agency late next week, an agency source said on Thursday.
The replacement for former President Barack Obama's plan to slash carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants will grant states the ability to write their own weaker regulations for the plants, a Politico report, citing a portion of an unpublished draft of the plan, said this week.
The Trump administration, focused on reversing Obama-era environmental regulations, was not sure at first whether it would replace the Clean Power Plan.
But after pressure from electricity generators and other energy interests concerned about regulatory certainty and litigation over emissions linked to climate change from environmentalists, former EPA head Scott Pruitt, who resigned last month under a cloud of ethics controversies, made replacing the plan with a more industry friendly measure a top priority for 2018.
The EPA in 2015 under Obama finalised the CPP which sought to reduce emissions from power plants to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. But the plan never took effect. The Supreme Court put the brakes on it in 2016 after energy-producing states sued the EPA, saying it had exceeded its legal reach.
The Trump administration's replacement plan would also give states the ability to seek permission to opt out of regulations on power plant emissions, the Politico report said. The EPA source did not comment on the report.
But a move to let states opt out would likely face staunch opposition from electricity industry associations because in many states the CPP's limits on emissions have already been met. In addition, opting out of regulations by states would likely be fought by green groups in the courts.
During a public hearing late last year in Charleston, West Virginia - the heart of coal country - health groups, environmentalists and a former coal miner criticized the Trump's administration's proposal to dismantle the clean power plan.
After a public comment period on the proposed Trump plan, a final EPA rule is expected later this year.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Marguerita Choy)