EPA Rebuked for Resistance to Public Input on Clean Power Plan Repeal

United Mine Workers of America environmental attorney Eugene Trisko speaks to a gathering of of miners in front of a statue of a coal miner, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, at the state Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia. The union members held a news conference during a break in a public hearing on the Trump administration’s planned repeal of an Obama-era plan to limit planet-warming carbon emissions. (AP Photo/John Raby)

(CN) – The Trump administration has little interest in hearing dissenting opinions — or scientific facts — as it moves to repeal an Obama-era initiative intended to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, officials from New York and Connecticut said during a public hearing on Wednesday.

The remarks by Michael Myers, of the New York attorney general’s office, and Robert Klee, commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, came on the second day of a two-day public hearing in Charleston, West Virginia, on the EPA’s planned repeal of former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

Unveiled by President Obama on Aug. 3, 2015, the 460-page plan aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants by 32 percent by 2030, relative to 2005 levels.

But President Donald Trump has said the initiative, which has never gone into effect due to ongoing litigation from coal industry-reliant states, is a job killer that stymies the nation’s global competitiveness and energy independence.

In March, Trump signed an executive order directing the EPA to review the plan, and in October, EPA  Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the formal process to change agency rules and repeal the plan.

The public hearing in West Virginia is part of that repeal process, but it is the only hearing the EPA has scheduled on the repeal, and critics, including Myers and Klee, say that is the height of hubris and ignores the concerns of other states who will be impacted by the repeal.

“Our leading scientists are telling us we need to act now to cut greenhouse gases. The Clean Power Plan is an important step in doing so,” Myers said on Wednesday.

“Administrator Pruitt, however, has demonstrated little interest in hearing facts that don’t fit with his predetermined outcome of eliminating The Clean Power Plan. This was underscored by his ignoring the requests of fourteen different states and cities for additional hearings,” he said.

Myers said if the EPA won’t schedule more public hearings on the planned repeal, New York will hold one of its own so that  its residents can air their concerns.

He also said the EPA would be invited to participate.

“Last year, the EPA told the D.C. Circuit that no serious effort to address the monumental problem of climate change can succeed without meaningfully eliminating power plant’s CO2 emissions. Those words are no less true today, despite the change in administration,” Myers said.

Klee said he too is aggravated by the lack of public hearings on the repeal.

“In October, I asked the EPA to hold at least one of the hearings in Connecticut. I once again request that more hearings be held in additional locations,” Klee said.

He went on to speak of the harms his state of Connecticut has suffered due to severe storms caused by climate change, including tropical storm Irene.

“Rather than relying on outdated technology why don’t you join Connecticut in a growing bipartisan coalition of cities, states and regions and first recognizing that climate change is a real threat to our lives, businesses, and environment,” Klee asked.

Teri Blanton, former chairperson for Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, a grassroots organization that says it is an advocate for working-class families on multiple issues, spoke about how growing up and living in Harlan County, Kentucky, a region knee deep in the coal industry and the resulting illnesses, has affected her life.

“My community today is a toxic mess, poisoned by acid mine drainage, coal slurry, and industrial waste,” she said.

“After more than a century of mining coal, we remain one of the poorest and least healthy counties in America,” Blanton added.

She went on to speak about the economic hardships and the decline of coal jobs in the region, placing the blame on cheaper energy sources taking over the market.

“Harlan County has been losing coal jobs for decades. First the industry replaced miners with explosives. Lastly, mining jobs have fallen off a cliff due to competition from cheaper energy. Most of us understand those jobs are never coming back,” Blanton said.

Victoria Sullivan, of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, disagreed, saying, “the Clean Power Plan exceeds the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act.”

“The CPP exceeds the authority by establishing emissions that cannot be met by any coal-fired power plant, but instead requires shifting to electrical generating and other types of generating plants,” she said.

Russ Lorince, vice president of external affairs at Arch Coal Inc., a mining and coal processing company, said if the Clean Power Plan is allowed to be implemented, it would result in the loss of 27,000 coal mining jobs.

“Advancing The Clean Power Plan is costly and it would have negligible impact on the environment,” Lorince added.

Also attending the second day of the public hearing was a large contingent from the NAACP.

Chris Kingsby, president of the Arkansas NAACP Youth Division, told the EPA that the only reason the agency wants to repeal the plan was because it was instituted by a black man.

“That is the number one problem that is wrong with The Clean Power Plan [in your opinion],” Kingsby said.

“It is a plan that works for all Americans, it is a plan that puts Americans first and that is what we deserve. There comes a time when we have to ask, ‘What is change?’ And the Clean Power Plan is the change that we need for American citizens, for American families,” he said. “Black, white, purple, or green they all matter and their communities matter.”

%d bloggers like this: