Clean Power Plan Repeal Will Not Bring Back Coal: White House Puts Ideology Over Science and Law

Statements by Ken Kimmell, President, Union of Concerned Scientists and Rachel Cleetus, lead economist and climate policy manager, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Oct 9, 2017

WASHINGTON (October 10, 2017)—The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposal today to repeal the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan—continuing its pattern of putting ideology over science, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The purported rationale for this proposal is that the Clean Power Plan is unlawful, a position that is directly contrary to what the EPA and the Justice Department argued in court just last fall. The proposal includes revised estimates for the benefits of co-pollutant reductions and the social cost of carbon, and attempts to buttress coal and fossil fuel plants. However, a UCS analysis released today finds that more than one-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.

Below is a statement by Ken Kimmell, president of UCS.

“As severe storms intensified by warming waters and air remind us of the urgency of addressing global warming, the administration will repeal the only national plan the United States has for cutting emissions from one of the biggest global warming contributors—power plants.

“Instead of addressing one of the most significant problems facing mankind, the administration thumbed its nose at science, and now at the law. Rather than positioning America as a leader in the global clean energy marketplace, the administration will stand on the sidelines.

“This decision is irrevocably tainted by a conflict of interest. The EPA’s claim that the Clean Power Plan is legally invalid comes from—believe it or not—the legal brief of none other than Scott Pruitt, who challenged the Clean Power Plan in court as attorney general of Oklahoma. Mr. Pruitt has participated in this issue as lawyer for one side, as the judge and jury at EPA, and now as the executioner of the Clean Power Plan. A respected court was poised to resolve the legal issue, but Pruitt asked the court to hold off, so that he could short-circuit the judicial process.

"As a result of this cynical move, power plants will continue to have the right to emit unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the atmosphere, free from any federal regulation. 

“Despite the administration’s claims, undoing the Clean Power Plan will not bring back coal. In fact, we released an analysis today showing that a number of the operating coal units in the country are uneconomic.  More than one-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. Eliminating the Clean Power Plan won't change this.

 “If the administration truly cared about coal miners and coal communities, it would work with Congress to pass legislation to help with transition assistance, worker training and the creation of new economic opportunities.”

Below is a statement by Rachel Cleetus, lead economist and climate policy manager at UCS.

“Today’s proposal to repeal of the Clean Power Plan uses crooked math to artificially lower the benefits of the pollution reductions that standard would have brought. The EPA fails to account for the fact that actions to cut carbon emissions also pay large dividends by reducing other forms of harmful pollution like soot and smog. In addition, the administration’s sharp downward revision to the social cost of carbon doesn’t change the reality that climate change is costly, as so clearly underscored by recent intense storms and wildfires.

“Administrator Pruitt continues to show a blatant disregard for the mission of the agency he heads, while pandering to fossil fuel and other industry interests. Repealing the power plant carbon standards is just the latest in a long string of actions he has taken to undermine public health safeguards and the role of science in policymaking. The American public deserves much better and these harmful actions will be strongly resisted at every turn.”

Please also see Kimmell's blog on the problems with Pruitt's legal reasoning, and Cleetus’s blog on how weak any replacement for the Clean Power Plan, if one is ultimately proposed by Pruitt, is likely to be.