Trump EPA Puts Clean Power Plan on Trial in Coal Country

Trump EPA Puts Clean Power Plan on Trial in Coal Country
AP Photo/Dake Kang

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a public hearing at the end of November in Charleston, West Virginia, the second-largest coal producing state in the country, on the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The location of the meetings sends the important message that the Trump administration is serious about removing the economically crippling and environmentally insignificant regulations imposed by the Obama administration.

The Clean Power Plan hasn’t done anything to make America’s power industry cleaner, despite being billed as the most important climate change measure taken by the previous administration. It requires power plants to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Complying with these regulations would result in massive costs—between $8 billion and $39 billion per year (approximately $64 to $312 per household)—and electricity price increases of 11 percent to 14 percent per year. And what do the American people get in exchange for paying more? The Obama administration’s own climate models estimated CPP would only avert 0.018 degrees Celsius of future global warming by 2100, an amount that is too small to be detected by even the most sophisticated scientific equipment.

Ask an American if he or she would like to see electric bills increase by 28 percent over two years to avert approximately zero global warming and you are bound to get a look that begs the question, “Are you crazy?” A recent poll found half of the households surveyed aren’t willing to pay a single dollar more for energy to fight climate change. That means roughly half the country wouldn’t even pay the cost of one McDouble cheeseburger at McDonald’s to battle man-made global warming. Fewer than 20 percent said they are willing to pay more than $100.

It seems the Obama administration understood few people are willing to pay more for their electricity for zero measurable impact on global temperature. This is probably why the Obama-era EPA’s fact sheet did not even mention how much potential warming this “landmark climate change regulation” will allegedly avert if kept in place.

To justify the massive costs for CPP, the Obama administration told the public the regulations would make the air cleaner, by reducing emissions of sulfur dioxides and nitrous oxides from power plants. The administration claimed a reduction in these compounds would lead to health benefits for American families. However, a quick look at EPA’s website shows sulfur dioxide emissions and nitrogen oxides have already fallen 87 percent and 61 percent, respectively, since 1980, and both compounds are currently below levels deemed safe by EPA.

Ladies and gentlemen, this PR tactic is called a bait-and-switch, and it’s this type of fraudulent advertising that’s illegal for businesses to use when marketing products. Why shouldn’t it also be illegal for promoting public policy?

The Clean Power Plan was all pain and no gain. Using West Virginia as the site of the hearing that will lay the groundwork to repeal the Clean Power Plan was a nod to the coal communities that have experienced massive unemployment in anticipation of these rules becoming the law of the land.

Democrats and environmental groups have predictably cried foul in the wake of the Trump administration’s call for an end to CPP, insisting that EPA hold additional hearings in different states (which the administration has now announced). But their cries are for a courtesy that was not paid to West Virginians by the Obama administration when it passed CPP in the first place. To quote the previous president, “Elections have consequences.”

Isaac Orr (iorr@heartland.org) is a research fellow for energy and environmental policy at The Heartland Institute.

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