(CN) – EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said he will sign a proposed rule Tuesday “to withdraw the so-called Clean Power Plan of the past administration,” but his announcement immediately drew fire from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman who said he will sue the Trump Administration over the move.
Former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan aimed to restrict greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. It was a key part of the U.S. commitment to reduce emissions as part of the Paris climate agreement.
Speaking at a coal-focused event in Hazard, Ky., Monday while standing alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Pruitt said the Environmental Protection Agency should not use its authority “to say to you we are going to declare war on any sector of our economy.”
The crowd erupted in applause.
When the cheers subsided, Pruitt said, “Tomorrow, in Washington, D.C., I’ll be signing a proposed rule to withdraw the so-called Clean Power Plan from the past administration, and thus begin the effort to withdraw that rule.”
Coal-fired power plants are among the largest emitters of carbon. The Obama administration sought to cut those emissions by 32 percent. Critics said the rule would hurt an already struggling coal industry and cost states like Kentucky and West Virginia to lose a large number of jobs.
But President Donald Trump has aligned himself closely with the coal industry. And earlier this year he announced he would remove the United States from the Paris climate accord unless it was rewritten.
Pruitt said the Clean Power Plan “was about picking winners and losers.”
“Regulatory power should not be used by any regulatory body to pick winners and losers,” he added. “The past administration was unapologetic. They were using every bit of power, every bit of authority, to use the EPA to pick winners and losers in how we generate electricity in this country. And that’s wrong.”
For his part, McConnell offered a measured assessment of how significant repeal of the Clean Power Act will be in terms of job creation.
“A lot of the damage has been done,” he said.
“This doesn’t immediately bring everything back,” McConnell added, “but we think it stops further decline of coal fired plants in the United States and that means there will still be some market here.”
Despite the EPA administrator’s rhetoric, the Obama plan was never enforced. It was put on hold by the Supreme Court in 2016 to allow litigation against it to proceed. Pruitt, who was Oklahoma’s Republican attorney general at the time, was a leader in the court fight against it.
He will soon have another fight on his hands.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Monday that by seeking to repeal the Clean Power Plan “especially without any credible commitment to replacing it — the Trump administration’s campaign of climate change denial continues, once again putting industry special interests ahead of New Yorkers’ and all Americans’ safety, health, and the environment.”
“The Trump administration’s persistent and indefensible denial of climate change — and their continued assault on actions essential to stemming its increasing devastation — is reprehensible, and I will use every available legal tool to fight their dangerous agenda,” Schneiderman said in a statement.
Separately, Pruitt told an audience at a Kentucky Farm Bureau event that would do away with federal tax credits for the wind and solar energy companies.
“I’d let them stand on their own and compete against coal and natural gas and other sources, and let utilities make real-time market decisions on those types of things as opposed to being propped up by tax incentives and other types of credits that occur, both in the federal level and state level,” the EPA administrator said.