The war on coal is over. The war on breath­ing has be­gun

Rome News-Tribune - - EDITORIALS AND OPINION - From The Bal­ti­more Sun

If the “war on coal is over,” as U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency Ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Pruitt de­clared this week, then the war on breath­ing has been launched. There is vir­tu­ally noth­ing about the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­ci­sion to over­turn the Clean Power Plan, the EPA rule lim­it­ing green­house gas emis­sions from coal-fired power plants, that makes sense — not the claim of re­viv­ing the coal in­dus­try, not the prom­ise of util­ity sav­ings and es­pe­cially not the sug­ges­tion that Amer­i­cans stand to ben­e­fit from such a short-sighted, sci­ence-averse and de­struc­tive pol­icy change.

Burn­ing coal pro­duces large quan­ti­ties of air pol­lu­tion, in­clud­ing mer­cury, car­bon monox­ide, sul­fur diox­ide and nitro­gen ox­ides. And that’s not even count­ing the car­bon diox­ide, meth­ane and other green­house gases that con­trib­ute to cli­mate change. That isn’t con­jec­ture, it’s sci­en­tific fact.

The only way elec­tric­ity cre­ated by burn­ing coal can be re­garded as “cheap” is to ig­nore th­ese hu­man costs — to ef­fec­tively sub­si­dize the grid by ig­nor­ing pre­ma­ture death, asthma at­tacks and bil­lions in med­i­cal ex­penses. And even then, coal­fired power is a du­bi­ous pur­suit given the rise of nat­u­ral gas and in­creas­ingly af­ford­able re­new­able en­ergy al­ter­na­tives.

None of this is a sur­prise, of course. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump promised to with­draw Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s sig­na­ture en­vi­ron­men­tal ini­tia­tive back when he was a can­di­date look­ing to en­er­gize sup­port­ers in coal-pro­duc­ing states, and Pruitt, the for­mer Ok­la­homa at­tor­ney gen­eral who sued to over­turn the Clean Power Plan, was just the true be­liever to ma­nip­u­late the data and get the job done. Given all the clown­ish­ness and in­com­pe­tence demon­strated by the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion, it’s a shame that this is one of the few sig­nif­i­cant cam­paign pledges Trump has man­aged to ful­fill — to make Amer­ica’s skies gray again.

The good news is that it’s beyond the power of the EPA to turn back the clock en­tirely. Some states have put in place their own re­stric­tions on power plants that aim to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions by lev­els equal to, and in some cases ex­ceed­ing, those in the Clean Power Plan.

Let’s also dis­pense with the non­sense that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is cre­at­ing jobs. Coal isn’t the fu­ture, clean en­ergy is.

Mary­land, for ex­am­ple, has more jobs for ho­tel concierges (645) than it does in coal (350). And this de­ci­sion won’t help the U.S. in­vest in the fu­ture — such as so­lar, wind or en­ergy ef­fi­ciency — but in­stead will force Amer­i­cans to pay for the con­se­quences of pol­lu­tion, from mer­cury-laden fish to more Code Red air qual­ity days when con­di­tions are so dire that young peo­ple, those with res­pi­ra­tory dis­eases and the el­derly are ad­vised to re­main in­doors. Who wants more of that? Trump may not be an out­right de­nier of cli­mate change, but from an­nounc­ing a with­drawal from the Paris Ac­cord four months ago to now aban­don­ing air qual­ity stan­dards, he has made it clear that he may as well be a flat-earther.

Cli­mate change is the real dan­ger fac­ing the United States, not over-reg­u­la­tion.

The pres­i­dent’s fail­ure to rec­og­nize that ris­ing sea lev­els, loss of sus­tain­able farm­land, wors­en­ing floods, drought and other weather-re­lated dis­as­ters, vec­tor-born dis­ease and the like­li­hood of wars launched be­cause of th­ese in­creas­ingly dire con­di­tions are a se­ri­ous and grow­ing threat to U.S. se­cu­rity could well prove his most last­ing le­gacy.

One last point. Pres­i­dent Obama never de­clared war on coal. And the Clean Power Plan wasn’t cost­ing the U.S. $33 bil­lion. Only a gross dis­tor­tion of the num­bers can pos­si­bly sug­gest that.

All that Pres­i­dent Trump has suc­ceeded in do­ing is to put a greater bur­den on states and the fed­eral courts to im­pose the pro­tec­tions through lo­cal laws and law­suits that the Amer­i­can pub­lic de­serves. That, and to sig­nal to the rest of the world that as long as Trump is pres­i­dent, the U.S. is an un­re­li­able part­ner in global ef­forts to mit­i­gate an en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter in the mak­ing.

Let­ters to the edi­tor: Ro­man Fo­rum, Post Of­fice Box 1633, Rome, GA 30162-1633 or email rome­new­stri­

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