When President Trump came to EPA to sign an executive order ending the “war on coal,” he was flanked by Pennsylvania coal miners. Hosting coal miners at EPA headquarters in Washington served as a stark contrast to the past administration, to be sure.
President Trump’s action was a moment in which a promise became an economic reality. As EPA Administrator, I immediately ordered my Agency to comply with the March 28 executive order, and signed four new rules, which included a review of the Clean Power Plan. Relief — and prosperity — is on the way.
The “war on coal” stemmed from the previous administration’s regulations aimed at removing coal from our nation’s energy mix. This approach, sanctioned by EPA and other agencies, divided Americans and strengthened Washington’s grip on our economy. Thankfully, President Trump has made clear: The regulatory assault on American workers is over. We should not have to choose between supporting jobs and supporting the environment.
Now, opponents of President Trump’s new executive order claim that this action means that our federal government is turning its back on a clean environment and regulation altogether. This argument is wrong.
First, the Clean Power Plan was never implemented, and was unable to do a single thing for our environment. Twenty-seven states sued, recognizing the threat this regulation posed to their economies and the rule of law. The Supreme Court granted a stay to halt implementation of the Clean Power Plan.
Rather than take its lumps, the Obama administration still demanded compliance from the states, claiming that the stay was only temporary (a technique that was frequently used by the Agency to extract compliance during litigation). The result was lost jobs and an uncertain regulatory environment, without any environmental gain to show for it.
Second, the Clean Power Plan was expected to yield very little for what it cost the American taxpayer. For the price of American jobs, EPA had promised a reduction of sea level rise by the thickness of two sheets of paper and reduction of atmospheric CO2 concentrations by 0.2 percent by 2100, according to an analysis by the National Economic Research Associates. Emissions growth in China and India, of course, would continue unchecked. This plan put America last.
Third, congressional testimony by my predecessor, former Administrator Gina McCarthy, made it clear that the goal of the Clean Power Plan was far less about achieving a measurable result than it was about providing leadership in the world. The federal government sought to kneecap American workers, while countries like India and China were not held to the same rules.
Americans who want a healthy and clean environment expect lawful, effective and economically sound regulation — the Clean Power Plan failed on all three counts. EPA can and should now focus on getting real results in the fight for clean air, land and water.
President Trump made it clear that we should put America first. We are not going to allow EPA to pick winners and losers through regulation. EPA should work within the framework that Congress has established. And we should provide regulatory certainty and write rules that make sense for the states and the businesses they affect.
The “war on coal” is over. Now EPA can focus on its mission and deliver real results.
• Former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt was sworn in as the 14th Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency on Feb. 17, 2017.
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