The Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule finalized by the EPA this week is coming in for heavy criticism from leading health and environmental organizations, who are calling it “a dangerous replacement” for the Clean Power Plan.

More early deaths

"EPA's decision to finalize the ACE rule means that more Americans will experience illness and early death – plain and simple. Furthermore, this rule will allow power plants across the nation to continue to be a major source of emissions that are driving climate change,” according to a statement issued by a coalition that includes the American Lung Association, Allergy & Asthma Network, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, American Heart Association, American Public Health Association, American Thoracic Society, Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Center for Climate Change and Health, Children's Environmental Health Network, Climate for Health, Health Care Without Harm, Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, National Medical Association, and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

"The ACE rule is wholly inadequate for reducing carbon pollution to address the urgent health crisis of climate change. Furthermore, research suggests that following the approach outlined in the final ACE rule could mean that some fossil fuel plants run more often, resulting in more dangerous pollution than there would have been under no rule at all.”

EPA: affordable, reliable energy

The EPA says the ACE rule replaces “the prior administration’s overreaching Clean Power Plan (CPP) with a rule that restores the rule of law and empowers states to continue to reduce emissions while providing affordable and reliable energy for all Americans.”

The ACE rule establishes emissions guidelines for states to use when developing plans to limit carbon dioxide (CO2) at their coal-fired power plants. Specifically, ACE identifies heat rate improvements as the best system of emission reduction (BSER) for CO2 from coal-fired power plants, and these improvements can be made at individual facilities. States will have 3 years to submit plans, which the EPA says is in line with other planning timelines under the Clean Air Act.

The agency cited President Trump’s Executive Order 13873 - Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth in announcing the finalization of the ACE rule.

"A grim scenario"

The public health advocates are critical of the EPA’s decision to rescind the Obama-era CPP - the first-ever federal policy to reduce harmful carbon pollution from power plants.

According to the statement, the plan “was estimated to prevent 4,500 early deaths every year once fully implemented in 2030, and drive meaningful reductions in the carbon pollution that causes climate change. Americans across the country are feeling the impacts of climate change every day from floods, wildfires and hurricanes. Each day that passes without action on climate means that we are one step closer to a grim scenario with devastating consequences for human health.

"Our organizations are committed to fighting climate change and will be taking action to protect our families from the disastrous outcomes of the Administration's decision today. It's time for EPA to return to its work to deliver the promise of the Clean Air Act: healthy air for all to breathe."