EPA chief sees Trump fail­ure in fos­sil-fuel pledge

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY BEN WOLF­GANG

EPA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Gina McCarthy said Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump will fail in his ef­forts to re­vi­tal­ize Amer­ica’s sag­ging coal in­dus­try and put fos­sil fu­els back at the cen­ter of the na­tion’s en­ergy port­fo­lio, taunt­ing an in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion that is primed to roll back some of her agency’s ini­tia­tives.

Dur­ing a speech in Wash­ing­ton, Ms. McCarthy — who presided over Pres­i­dent Obama’s am­bi­tious plan to phase out fos­sil fu­els and rein in green­house gas emis­sions — said the “train has left the sta­tion” with re­gard to Amer­ica’s move to­ward clean en­ergy.

She said she is con­fi­dent that much of the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency’s work over the past eight years will stand the test of time and sug­gested that Mr. Trump will strug­gle to roll back ini­tia­tives such as the Clean Power Plan, which lim­its emis­sions from coal-fired power plants.

But even if Mr. Trump does use ex­ec­u­tive power to nul­lify the Clean Power Plan or other EPA ini­tia­tives put into place un­der the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, she said broader mar­ket trends will make it im­pos­si­ble for the bil­lion­aire to ful­fill his cam­paign prom­ises.

“Folks, clearly there is more go­ing on in our world and our en­ergy sec­tor than the Clean Power Plan can ac­count for. … This is all about the en­ergy tran­si­tion that’s al­ready hap­pen­ing,” she told an au­di­ence in Wash­ing­ton. “The clean en­ergy econ­omy, folks, that train has left the sta­tion.”

The Clean Power Plan re­mains caught up in the ju­di­cial sys­tem af­ter a Supreme Court de­ci­sion this year, though many states al­ready are tak­ing steps to meet the rule’s strict lim­its on car­bon emis­sions. The reg­u­la­tions set emis­sions thresh­olds and re­quire states to de­velop plans to meet them.

The stan­dards would make it vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to build any new coal-fired power plants.

Through­out his cam­paign, Mr. Trump said he would put the na­tion’s coal min­ers back to work and would make it eas­ier for the na­tion to tap into its fos­sil fuel re­serves. More broadly, the pres­i­dent-elect in­tends to with­draw the U.S. from a global cli­mate change deal re­quir­ing a 26 per­cent cut in emis­sions by 2030. The Clean Power Plan and other EPA reg­u­la­tions are key to meet­ing those tar­gets.

Mr. Trump has said he would pull the U.S. out of that global cli­mate deal. Al­though he hasn’t given many specifics on broader en­ergy pol­icy, he has sug­gested that pro­pos­als like the Clean Power Plan will be elim­i­nated.

His pitch to ru­ral vot­ers through­out the cam­paign sea­son cen­tered on bring­ing back man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs, coal min­ing and other bat­tered sec­tors of the econ­omy.

“I look around and hate to see what hap­pened,” Mr. Trump told a crowd in Penn­syl­va­nia over the sum­mer, promis­ing to put min­ers back to work if elected and to fully tap the na­tion’s oil and nat­u­ral gas re­serves.

But Mr. Trump does face an up­hill climb. The share of the na­tion’s en­ergy pro­duced by fos­sil fu­els has been fall­ing through­out Mr. Obama’s pres­i­dency as a re­sult of cheaper re­new­able fu­els and fed­eral reg­u­la­tions.

In 2015, the U.S. got 33 per­cent of its elec­tric­ity from coal, down from about 40 per­cent just a few years ear­lier, ac­cord­ing to the fed­eral En­ergy In­for­ma­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

About 33 per­cent came from nat­u­ral gas and other 20 per­cent from nu­clear.

Re­new­ables ac­counted for just 7 per­cent of elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion last year, though that num­ber has been climb­ing dur­ing Mr. Obama’s time in of­fice.

Mr. Trump also faces con­flict­ing pub­lic at­ti­tudes about en­ergy gen­er­a­tion. A Chicago Coun­cil Sur­vey re­leased last Mon­day, for ex­am­ple, found that 54 per­cent of Amer­i­cans say it is im­por­tant for the U.S. to in­vest in re­new­able en­ergy. Just 41 per­cent said the same about oil and gas ex­trac­tion.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency Ad­min­is­tra­tor Gina McCarthy would not say whether she was con­cerned about re­ver­sals of her years of work.

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