EPA proposes new rules that would relax coal pollution standards, a move critics say would worsen global warming.
The administration of US President Donald Trump has proposed new rules that would scale back limits on coal-fired power plants, a move critics said would have dire environmental and health consequences.
The proposal, announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday, would broadly increase the leeway given to states to decide how much to regulate coal power plants.
The EPA said it "empowers states, promotes energy independence, and facilitates economic growth and job creation."
Tuesday's proposal is the latest move by the current administration to roll back environmental protections put in place by Trump's predecessor, President Barack Obama.
Combined with the EPA's proposal earlier this month to ease mileage requirements for vehicles, the move could increase the country's climate-changing emissions, according to some former top EPA officials, environmental groups, and other opponents.
The Natural Resources Defense Council called the replacement proposal Trump's "Dirty Power Plan".
Democratic Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey cited this summer's wildfires, increasing droughts and coastal flooding as evidence that man-made climate change from burning coal and other fossil fuels is already happening.
"Once again, this administration is choosing polluters' profits over public health and safety," he said.
Scientists said that without extensive study they cannot directly link a single weather event to climate change, but climate change is responsible for more intense and more frequent extreme events such as storms, droughts, floods and wildfires.
In a statement, Republican Senator John Barrasso from the coal state of Wyoming welcomed the overhaul of the Obama administration's 2015 regulations, called the Clean Power Plan.
'Reviving the coal industry'
Trump is expected to promote the new plan at an appearance in West Virginia, a top coal-producing state, on Tuesday.
Trump has already vowed to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement as he pushes to revive the coal industry.
The Obama administration had worked to nudge the country's power producers towards less-polluting energy from natural gas, wind and solar power, among others.
Meanwhile, Trump also directed Energy Secretary Rick Perry to bolster struggling coal-fired and nuclear power plants to keep them open, warning that impending retirements of "fuel-secure" power plants that rely on coal and nuclear power are harming the nation's power grid and reducing its resilience.
Obama's plan was designed to cut US carbon dioxide emissions to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
The Supreme Court put Obama's plan on hold in 2016 following a legal challenge by industry and coal-friendly states, an order that remains in effect.
The Trump administration is emphasizing "coal at all costs," said Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator when the Obama plan was developed.
"They are continuing to play to their base and following industry's lead," she said.
The EPA's proposal is open for a public comment period, with a final ruling expected later this year.
Environmental groups are likely to mount a court fight against the provision that would allow states to opt out.