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WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Tuesday made public the details of its new pollution rules governing coal-burning power plants, and the fine print includes an acknowledgment that the plan would increase carbon emissions and lead to up to 1,400 premature deaths annually.
The proposal, the Affordable Clean Energy rule, is a replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which was an aggressive effort to speed up the closures of coal-burning plants, one of the main producers of greenhouse gases, by setting national targets for cutting carbon dioxide emissions and encouraging utilities to use cleaner energy sources like wind and solar. The new proposal, issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, instead seeks to make minor on-site efficiency improvements at individual plants and will also let states relax pollution rules for power plants that need upgrades, keeping them active longer.
Trump administration officials say the Clean Power Plan illegally tried to force electric utilities to use greener energy sources in order to reduce carbon emissions. The new plan, they said, achieves much of the benefits sought by the Obama administration but in a way that is legal and allows states greater flexibility.
“Today’s proposal provides the states and regulated community the certainty they need to continue environmental progress while fulfilling President Trump’s goal of energy dominance,” Andrew Wheeler, the acting administrator of the E.P.A., said in a statement Tuesday.
However, the hundreds of pages of technical analysis that accompanies the new proposal indicate that emissions will grow.
Compared to the Obama-era plan, it says, “implementing the proposed rule is expected to increase emissions of carbon dioxide and the level of emissions of certain pollutants in the atmosphere that adversely affect human health.”
The analysis also includes a section called “foregone” climate and human health benefits. That is, instead of listing the health gains of the Trump plan — preventing premature deaths, for example, or avoiding a certain number of increased emergency room visits from asthma attacks — it is instead describing the effect of the Trump plan as benefits lost.
The proposal lays out several possible models for the ways that individual states might approach regulating coal-fired power plants, and what the consequences would be for pollution and human health. In a the scenario the E.P.A. has pegged as the most likely to occur, the health effects would be significant.
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 its ability to trigger chronic problems like asthma and bronchitis.
By contrast, the Obama administration’s central argument for its Clean Power Plan was that it protected human health as well as the climate. Specifically, it said, it would help avoid between 1,500 and 3,600 premature deaths annually by 2030.
The Clean Power Plan aimed to curb planet-warming greenhouse gases by steering the energy sector away from coal and toward cleaner energy sources like wind and solar. According to its calculations, the decreased coal burning also would reduce other pollutants like sulfur dioxide, which poses respiratory risk, and nitrogen oxides that create ozone, better known as smog, which can damage lung tissue.
Mr. Obama’s E.P.A. also estimated that, by 2030, the Clean Power Plan would result in 180,000 fewer missed school days per year by children because of ozone-related illnesses. Asthma instances would also drop significantly, according to the analysis.
By contrast Mr. Trump’s analysis finds its plan would see 48,000 new cases of exacerbated asthma and at least 21,000 new missed days of school annually by 2030 because those pollutants would increase in the atmosphere rather than decrease.