Press Release | June 19, 2019

Trump Administration’s Energy Plan Stalls Progress on Climate Change

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA—Today the Trump administration released its replacement to a federal plan to tackle climate change and, as predicted, the industry-friendly alternative will vastly underperform in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and health benefits from reduced air pollution.

As opposed to the landmark 2015 federal plan to significantly reduce pollution from coal-fired power plants, the administration’s so-called “Affordable Clean Energy Rule” would result in minimal carbon reductions at a time when climate change impacts are intensifying—even targeting such paltry carbon targets that industry is poised to meet those already as markets shift to cleaner, cheaper energy alternatives.

“This is another frustrating display of anti-climate government action that will hurt communities in the South who are already suffering from extreme weather and flooding due to climate change, as well as coal-fired air pollution,” said Will Cleveland, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “It’s a do-nothing gift to industry executives, and this is especially hard for this region which in many ways has the most to lose in terms of climate impacts.”

Historically, utilities in Southern states have relied heavily on coal to produce electricity and the resulting decades of pollution have saddled generations of Southerners with poor air and, often, poor health. In addition, the coastal South is home to some of the nation’s most vulnerable locations to rising waters, a problem made worse by heat-trapping emissions. Charleston, South Carolina, and the Hampton Roads area of Virginia are experiencing some of the worst routine flooding from rising seas on the East Coast.

“This administration is trying to prop up an industry that can no longer compete against cleaner, cheaper energy sources. Such a political stunt puts people’s lives at risk without providing any economic advantage,” said Cleveland.

In recent years, coal as a percentage of state power generation has dropped significantly in the South as market forces change the energy mix. From 2001 to 2017, coal use in the South plummeted:

  •      Alabama: 58 percent to 22 percent
  •      Georgia: 63 percent to 25 percent
  •      North Carolina: 62 to 27 percent
  •      South Carolina: 41 percent to 19 percent
  •      Tennessee: 62 percent to 35 percent
  •      Virginia: 51 percent to 12 percent

The final rule did not include New Source Review standards, a controversial proposal to weaken existing permitting requirements for upgrades at power plants, which the administration indicated it would finalize in the coming months.

“Over a decade ago, the Southern Environmental Law Center won a unanimous decision at the United States Supreme Court to close New Source Review loopholes, which resulted in a dramatic improvement in Southern air quality, and will not stand by while this administration guts this critical safeguard,” said Cleveland.


For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With more than 80 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region.

Are you a reporter and would like more information? Please visit our press contact page for a full list of SELC’s press contacts.

Press Contacts

Will Cleveland

Senior Attorney