As storms and wildfires besiege our nation, Donald Trump and his EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt will announce Tuesday their intention to repeal the Clean Power Plan, the critical climate action plan set in motion during the Obama administration that will save lives and money. As yet another hurricane slammed into our country, the spectacle of these robber barons sitting in the White House with their fossil fuel pals and congratulating themselves for making money while people’s lives are destroyed is maddening. Repealing the Clean Power Plan is a reckless, dangerous move by an administration that continues to show that it cares more about their fossil fuel CEO cronies than the lives of thousands of people.
I have a message for everyone distraught by this news: If we keep working and we don’t give up, we can stop them. As director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, I can assure you that we will meet the targets of the Clean Power Plan by retiring coal plants and replacing them with clean energy, in spite of Trump. Just days before the Trump administration announced this repeal, the utility Luminant announced it will retire its massively polluting Monticello coal plant in Texas. That’s the 259th coal plant to announce retirement since 2010. We’ve retired eleven coal plants under Trump, and none have opened, re-opened, or delayed their retirement.
Meanwhile, clean energy continues to skyrocket. The two largest clean energy projects in history were announced this year by AEP and Xcel. Coal use is down to its lowest level in history. And new projections from the International Energy Agency predict solar will account for one-third of all power worldwide in just five years, equal to half the world’s coal power capacity. As a result of all this work and momentum, many states are on track to meet or exceed their 2030 Clean Power Plan emission reduction goals within the next two years, over a decade ahead of schedule.
At the same time, we still need the Clean Power Plan, for a lot of reasons. It has been a critically important catalyst for action in continuing this momentum and ensuring the benefits of both reducing pollution and growing clean energy are deployed in an orderly, equitable, and fair manner across the country.
Because of the progress moving toward clean energy and retiring coal, the Clean Power Plan is already a part of most planning by utilities and the Public Utility Commissions that oversee them. That’s why most states will stay on track to achieve their Clean Power Plan goals despite Trump’s steps backward. Without it, there are serious questions of how, when, and where clean energy will deploy, and whether everyone can enjoy the health and financial benefits of reducing dangerous pollution.
In many states, without the Clean Power Plan, Trump’s policies and the complacency of his political and industry allies are going to keep their constituents stuck behind the curve with dirtier energy, dirtier air, and dirtier water. Trump’s aggressive pro-polluter action in attacking the Clean Power Plan means residents of heavily polluted states like Texas, Missouri and Wisconsin will suffer from a more polluted environment while missing out on many of the benefits of a fair and just clean energy economy the Clean Power Plan would help create.
Despite being on track to meet the Clean Power Plan’s nationwide emission goals years ahead of schedule, we have a lot of work to do to curb carbon pollution in the electric sector and phasing out the remaining coal plants that are making people sick and replacing them with clean energy.
In short, the Clean Power Plan provides a thoughtful and necessary framework for the US to continue cutting carbon pollution. Indeed, the program needs to be preserved and strengthened in order to drive even further progress away from fossil fuels and towards renewable resources.
By throwing the program away, the Trump administration is putting the safety of our communities at risk, and making it crystal clear they have no intention of safeguarding people from the very real, immediate dangers of climate change. That’s especially distressing to hear this news as Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands recover from devastating hurricanes made stronger by climate disruption, while the West recovers from unprecedented wildfires also exacerbated by a changing climate.
In addition to reducing climate-forcing carbon emissions, the Clean Power Plan also curbs other harmful pollutants that contribute to dangerous smog and soot, causing heart attacks, respiratory illnesses, and even premature deaths. The EPA previously projected that the Clean Power Plan would prevent 90,000 childhood asthma attacks, 300,000 missed work and school days, and 3,600 premature deaths annually by 2030.
By 2030, the Plan would result in annual climate benefits of $20 billion and annual health benefits of between $14 and $34 billion. It would also reduce the average consumer’s electricity bill by $85 per year and save consumers a total of $155 billion over the course of the next decade. Unfortunately, the only dollar signs that Trump and Pruitt see are profits of their friends in the dirty energy industry, whom they cater to and meet with at every chance.
No matter who is in the White House or in the EPA Administrator’s office, the EPA is legally required to limit dangerous carbon pollution from power plants, and the Clean Power Plan is a flexible, affordable way to do that.
Make no mistake, the fight against this dangerous decision is only just beginning. We have every intention of mobilizing to make our voices are heard when the EPA conducts its legally required comment period and of fighting any new rule that does not comply with the Clean Air Act in court. Join us.