War on coal is over; war on breathing has begun
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 coalfired 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.
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,.
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 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?
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.
The Baltimore Sun