Of all the damage that the Trump Administration has wreaked on America — from tearing apart our social fabric to trampling all over the rule of law — none is more dangerous than walking away from the Clean Power Plan. For those who have forgotten amid the international and domestic chaos of the last 15 months, the Clean Power Plan would have required gas and coal-fired power plants to cut their emissions of global warming carbon pollution by about 32 percent by 2030. The Clean Power Plan was an attempt to save the future.
The planet is warming, and the climate is destabilizing. The facts of climate change have been thoroughly measured, monitored, observed and documented by scientists for decades. In the face of these facts, it takes quite a feat of intellectual dishonesty to declare that global warming is a “hoax.” Yet there are some on the crackpot fringe, some beholden to the fossil fuel industry and many in the Republican Party, including the president and Scott Pruitt, who deny the reality of climate change, just as some still maintain that the earth is flat.
The facts, however, have not gone entirely unnoticed by our government. In 2007, despite opposition from the Bush Administration, the Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases are pollutants, so they must be regulated by law under the Clean Air Act. President Obama, heeding the law, directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine if global warming pollution presents a danger to public health and future generations. The EPA conducted an exhaustive two-year review of the science and gathered hundreds of pages of public input and concluded that, indeed, greenhouse gas pollution poses a danger to those of us living now and to our descendants.
After an arduous six-year process, the EPA issued the Clean Power Plan in 2015. It required states to submit plans detailing how they would meet the goal of cutting carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants, the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution, by 32 percent by 2030. That goal can be met if states adopt plans that will speed the development of renewable energy resources and emphasize energy efficiency and conservation technologies. Both those approaches would create thriving new industries and millions of new jobs, growing our economy while cutting carbon.
Almost immediately, states with significant coal and gas resources sued to stop the implementation of the Clean Power Plan with the current EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, taking a prominent role in the attack. In an unusual move in 2016, the Supreme Court stopped the implementation of the Clean Power Plan even before a lower court could consider the merits of the controversy.
But the Clean Air Act’s legal requirement to regulate carbon remains, so shortly after he took office, President Trump signed an executive order directing Pruitt to rewrite the Clean Power Plan regulations. In October of last year, Pruitt formally repealed the regulations but did not propose a replacement.
The repeal of the Clean Power Plan and Trump’s withdraw from the Paris Agreement to reduce global carbon emissions, which is signed by 195 countries, puts us on a dangerous path to destabilizing the climate that has fostered human progress for thousands of years. Ironically, also in October of last year, the United Nations issued a report warning that the atmospheric concentration of carbon has reached its highest level in 3 million years.
In walking away from the Clean Power Plan, Trump and Pruitt are walking away from legal obligations, sustainable economic growth and a safe climate for generations to come. They are walking away from the future.
State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-166 ,can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.