Trump's EPA Admits Their Own Power Plant Rule Change Will Cause Up To 1,400 More Deaths A Year

It's not every day that a regulatory agency forecasts people will die as a result of what it's doing.

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On Tuesday, the Trump administration's Environmental Protection Agency released the so-called "Affordable Clean Energy rule," a framework meant to replace President Barack Obama's landmark Clean Power Plan. Under this rule, obsolete coal-fired power plants would be upgraded for efficiency improvements rather than replaced, and states would be allowed to keep power plants running past their due dates for upgrades.

While the administration claims the rule will achieve the main objectives of the Clean Power Plan, which Trump canceled last year, even the EPA itself is forecasting that adopting this rule will increase the death rate over what it would have been under Obama's framework, according to a report in The New York Times:

The proposal lays out several possible pathways that individual states might use for regulating coal-fired power plants, and what the consequences would be for pollution and human health in each case. In the scenario the E.P.A. has pegged as the most likely to occur, the health effects would be significant.

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In that scenario, the Trump E.P.A. predicts its plan will see between 470 and 1,400 premature deaths annually by 2030 because of increased rates of microscopic airborne particulates known as PM 2.5, which are dangerous because of their link to heart and lung disease as well as their ability to trigger chronic problems like asthma and bronchitis.

President Donald Trump has been obsessed with protecting and expanding the use of coal, one of the dirtiest fuels and a huge contributor to global warming. He even toyed with the idea of using a Cold War era national defense law to force electric utilities to buy power from failing coal plants.

Coal fired power plants have long been a staple of the U.S. power grid, but are declining due to competition from natural gas, which is cheaper, and wind and solar power, which are far more agreeable to the environment and human health. Even where coal remains king, employment in the coal sector is declining, due to increased automation.

Despite the departure of Trump's EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, a notorious anti-environmental crusader who resigned in July amid repeated accusations of graft and public corruption, there is no indication the agency will show any renewed dedication to public health. Trump's acting replacement for Pruitt, Andrew Wheeler, is a former coal lobbyist.

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Matthew Chapman is a video game designer, science fiction author, and political reporter from Austin, TX. Follow him on Twitter @fawfulfan.