EPA Administrator Pruitt’s new rule repealing the Clean Power Plan

The new rule, initiated by EPA Administrator Pruitt to repeal the Obama Administration Clean Power Plan (CPP), is not a surprise.  But today’s EPA press release, which made official what Pruitt had announced yesterday in Kentucky, is truly disingenuous as to the Administration’s broader objective of bringing back coal jobs.  In the end, the repeal of the CPP will do virtually nothing for the recovery of the coal industry.  It is well-documented that the decline of coal jobs is the direct result of market forces — competition from cheap natural gas (coming from fracking) and automation trends in mining.  These developments have affected the industry for decades already,  Repeal of the CPP will not change that.  Instead, the false “war against coal” rhetoric only distracts from more important issues and serves as a convenient excuse for not doing more for communities adversely affect by the decline of coal .

Some of the most troubling parts of the press release are found in the Agency’s description of the cost and benefits of the CPP repeal.   Under Administrator Pruitt, the Agency has changed how international vs. domestic climate change effects are considered, excluded the co-benefits of public health improvements from the elimination of other pollutants, and changed how energy savings are accounted for.  An op-ed piece by Richard Revesz and Jack Lienke in today’s NY Times does well in exposing these shenanigans.

I found especially galling how the public health co-benefits of reducing coal usage are being dealt with.  These public health benefits come from reducing power plant pollution, such as particulate matters and other substances, that have well-documented adverse health consequences.  In other words, the pollution reductions from the CPP would have helped American citizens.  Where is the “America first” in ignoring that?

In any event, since today’s announcement is just the initiation of a rule-making process, nothing much will change for quite a while.  The repeal has to go through the same regulatory process as the initial promulgation of the CPP rule itself.  And after that, there are bound to be litigation challenges to the repeal, just as opponents to the original CPP regulation (such as Pruitt himself) tied up the CPP’s effectiveness by court challenges.

But there is a silver-lining for the environment in the disingenuousness of Pruitt’s announcement . . . the repeal of the CPP regulation will definitely not accomplish what it has been advertised by this Administration to do — bring back coal as a major source of energy.

Ultimately, the repeal is just a gigantic smoke-screen for delay and obfuscation on the need to take serious policy action on climate change.   In a few years from now, when climate change science will have progressed even further and provided us with yet more confirmation of the causal connection between our changing climate and the link to human-originated greenhouse gas emissions, we’ll look back at this as an important missed opportunity for the US to redirect its economy.

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