Ahead of President Donald Trump’s Tuesday night rally in West Virginia, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled a highly anticipated new rule that would roll back restrictions targeting greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants, and enable states to set their own standards.
Scientists and environmental advocates quickly denounced the proposal—officially titled the Affordable Clean Energy Rule—as the “Wheeler-Pruitt Dirty Power Plan,” a nod to EPA chief Andrew Wheeler, an ex-coal lobbyist, and his disgraced predecessor Scott Pruitt.
Critics warn the new rule, which would replace the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, would “keep dirty coal plants online longer, dump millions of tons of planet-warming pollution into the atmosphere, and slow the transition of the power sector to clean, renewable energy.”
Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen—whose group is defending the Obama plan against lawsuits brought by fossil fuel interests and allied states—outlined the two key ways that Trump’s “misguided proposal would wreak havoc on communities.”
“First, fossil fuel interests won’t have to make the big cuts in climate-altering carbon pollution that the Obama-era plan would require, exacerbating the destructive impacts of climate change,” he explained. “Second, polluters can avoid making the large, life-saving reductions in smog and soot pollution that the [Obama] plan would have achieved.”
May Boeve, executive director of 350.0rg, charged that “Trump’s attack on the Clean Power Plan isn’t just a reversal of policy, it’s an all-out assault on our climate and communities” that “gives more power to fossil fuel polluters while leaving people to deal with the consequences of a worsening climate crisis.”
Demanding action from local and state elected officials “in the absence of U.S. federal leadership,” she added, “It’s clear once again that the Trump administration cares only about propping up their fossil fuel executive friends over the well-being of people and the planet.”
Trump is actively destroying the planet in order to enrich his billionaire friends in the fossil fuel industry. We must fight back. pic.twitter.com/ttghMRy2vM
—Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) August 21, 2018
This is “one of the Trump administration’s most egregious attacks on clean air, public health, and our fragile climate,” declared Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, and it “subjects the EPA to the very coal industry executives who used to sign Wheeler’s paychecks and want to pollute with impunity.”
Environmental Working Group (EWG) president Ken Cook remarked, “When you have a president who doesn’t believe in climate change and a former coal lobbyist running the Environmental Protection Agency, they’ll stop at nothing to keep a dirty, dying industry on life support—no matter the cost to people and the planet.”
Pointing to recent extreme weather which experts have tied to the global climate crisis that’s resulted from burning fossil fuels, Andrea McGimsey of Environment America said, “At a time when communities across the U.S. are threatened by scorching temperatures, historic wildfires, and air pollution, this move is sheer reckless folly, and it could have profound consequences.”
The administration on Tuesday released hundreds of pages of technical analysis detailing the expected impacts of implementing the new rule. As the New York Times reported, “the fine print includes an acknowledgment that the plan would increase carbon emissions and lead to up to 1,400 premature deaths annually.”
Since his days campaigning for president, Trump has promised to revive the failing coal industry—telling miners in West Virginia two years ago to get ready to start “working your asses off”—and ignored the well documented consequences for human health and the planet.
“This will do little to bring back coal-fired power, which is increasingly uneconomic compared to wind, solar, and natural gas,” concluded Union of Concerned Scientists President Ken Kimmell. “If the administration is sincere about wanting to help coal miners, they should help coal communities diversify their local economies and provide transition assistance and worker retraining.”
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Jessica Corbett is a Common Dreams staff writer.