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Bad Policy, Disastrous Consequences: Coal-Fired Power in Puerto Rico

January 2020

Citation: ELR 10017

Author: Barry E. Hill

In September 2019, in an article entitled “The Market Has Spoken: Coal Is Dying,” Matt Egan of CNN Business wrote, "President Donald Trump has gutted regulations on the coal industry, falsely claimed that windmills cause cancer and installed a former coal lobbyist to lead the [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] EPA. In the face of those efforts to rescue coal country, America’s aging fleet of coal-fired plants continues to shrink. New plants are not getting built. Trump’s vow to rip up environmental rules has been overwhelmed by an even more powerful force: the free market. Coal just can’t keep up with dirt-cheap gas and increasingly affordable renewables." This Comment examines the regulations regarding coal ash that the Trump Administration has issued to protect the special interests of the nation’s coal industry at the same time as major power companies are facing low-cost natural gas, declining costs of renewables, low interest rates, decisions whether to keep nuclear energy plants operating, and so on. It specifically examines the adverse impacts of these regulations on fence-line communities, focusing on one such community in Guayama, Puerto Rico.

Barry E. Hill is a Visiting Scholar at the Environmental Law Institute and Adjunct Professor at Vermont Law School. He served as Director of EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice from 1998-2007 and currently resides in Puerto Rico.

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