by Susan Sharon
Maine Things Considered
This week Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan, the cornerstone of the Obama administration’s efforts to address climate change. While not unexpected, the decision is coming under fire as ideologically driven and a boon for the fossil fuel industry at a critical time for the planet.
Considered one of the signature policies of President Barack Obama, the Clean Power Plan is designed to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by 2030. It also sets specific targets for states to meet and a flexible framework for doing so.
Pruitt has long held that it is illegal.
“We are committed to righting the wrongs of the Obama administration by cleaning the regulatory slate,” he said in a statement. “Any replacement rule will be done carefully, properly, and with humility, by listening to all those affected by the rule.”
“What we have is a Clean Power Plan. What we’re getting is a dirty power plan,” said David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council during a telephone news conference.
Doniger was quick to attack Pruitt as President Donald Trump’s “deregulatory lieutenant,” someone who has cooked the books and the science to try to make it appear that the plan is costly and without environmental benefits.
“When in fact the science is extremely strong — that the carbon pollution benefits and the soot and smog benefits drastically outweigh the shrinking cost of meeting this plan,” he said.
Maine’s geographical location — at the “end of the tailpipe” — makes it vulnerable to polluting industry emissions from the Midwest. And Lisa Pohlmann of the Natural Resources Council of Maine said that has harmful consequences beyond dirty air.
“It all comes our way and it makes for very bad air days and exacerbates asthma attacks and frankly damages our economy because it is all producing a warmer climate. And that’s not good for our fisheries. It’s not good for our farmers. It’s just not good,” she said.
Pruitt used an event in Hazard, Kentucky, on Monday to announce his proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan.
“The war on coal is over,” he said.
But critics, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, point out that more than a third of the nation’s coal-fired electricity is either already slated to go offline or is more expensive to operate than existing natural gas plants. And, they say, allowing power plants’ carbon emissions to go unchecked will create uncertainty in the burgeoning renewable energy market and stall investments.
“In New York State, one of the fastest growing job categories is in clean energy. But we will lose this race globally if we’re not careful, because other countries are embracing the future as opposed to trying to turn the clock back,” said Richard Kauffman, New York state’s energy czar.
It could take months for the Trump administration to come up with a replacement plan, which environmental groups are likely to challenge in court.