By Khalil Shahyd, Natural Resources Defense Council
Even as many of our nation’s most vulnerable urban and rural communities continue to suffer from unusually high energy cost burdens, today the Trump Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule replacing the Clean Power Plan (CPP) with a new proposal, the “Affordable Clean Energy” plan.
The two proposed plans could not be more diametrically opposed. While the CPP proposed a flexible plan to reduce harmful emission from power plants that endanger our health and cause climate change, the new rule is meant to prop up the dying coal industry. The “affordable clean energy” plan gives polluters and their lobbyist free rein by gutting the Clean Power Plan, the landmark climate initiative that set the first limits on dangerous carbon pollution from power plants.
This while many American households are increasing struggling with high energy cost. For example, low-income urban households—many of whom live in older housing with poor ventilation and aging, inefficient appliances and heating systems—spend, on average, 7.2 percent of their income on utility bills, which amounts to about $1,700 annually out of $25,000 in median household income. That is more than triple the 2.3 percent spent by higher-income households for electricity, heating and cooling.
Similarly for many rural residents, one out of four low-income rural households have an energy burden greater than 18 percent and over a quarter of all rural low-income households devote more than 10 percent of their income to energy expenses.
Yet, the Trump EPA continues to justify their campaign against the Clean Power Plan by using faulty math in an attempt to mislead the public, inflating the cost and minimizing the benefits of implementing the CPP rule.
Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council summed it up best:
“The world’s on fire and the Trump administration wants to make it worse. This Dirty Power Plan is riddled with gimmicks and giveaways. It would mean more climate-changing pollution from power plants. That’s a recipe for climate disaster, and we’ll fight this dangerous retreat with every tool available.
“What America needs instead is an even stronger Clean Power Plan, one that will further accelerate the nation’s shift to clean energy—that’s how to truly protect public health, our children and future generations.”
As expected and carrying on the logic adopted by former Administrator Scott Pruitt, this proposal under interim EPA Administrator Wheeler is designed to ensure that power plants are required to make no meaningful carbon pollution reductions—and in fact makes it possible for plants to increase emissions, so long as they do so more efficiently.
Why the “Affordable Clean Energy Plan”
Often lost in the details of the Trump administration’s withdrawal of the CPP and their promises to “revive” the coal industry is the need for massive subsidies and market-rigging gimmicks to inflate the coast of clean energy while propping up money-losing coal-fired power plants. These plants are not only harmful to human health and environment but many of economically non-viable due to rapidly falling prices for natural gas and alternative renewables based on solar and wind.
In addition to the direct economic cost of subsidizing poor performing coal infrastructure; the Trump administration according to a recent report from Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) found that favoring coal over clean energy would deny Americans the opportunity to create 560,000 new jobs and add $52 billion in economic value.
The Hidden Cost of Denying Clean Energy: Burdening America’s Most Vulnerable
Perhaps even more egregious is the administration’s own admission that it’s plan will lead to an increase in public health threats totaling more than, “1,630 additional premature deaths annually by 2030 from heart and lung disease—an estimate independent experts say may be low.”
Further, the new rule eliminates opportunities to reduce emissions through residential efficiency upgrades in the home. Without those incentives the, Affordable Clean Energy plan only serves to reduce cost for coal companies while increasing cost on families who must pay for upgrades to aging power plants rather than cost reducing efficiency options in the home.
Under the CPP, the EPA proposed the Clean Energy Incentive Program to boost investments for residential energy efficiency, saving money for consumers while providing numerous economic and health benefits for communities that need it most. The Trump administration’s elimination of any role for residential energy efficiency removes one of the largest single measure sources of potential greenhouse gas emissions reductions available to ensure we meet necessary climate change mitigation targets. The administration has effectively tied our hands, by attempting to lock us in to coal as our primary fuel source for residential electricity.
Affordable Housing and Environmental Advocates Demand Clean Energy
From the beginning, Energy Efficiency for All (EEFA) mobilized our partners to ensure that the Clean Power Plan incorporated the needs and opportunities presented by the nation’s low-income families living in affordable housing in every state, congressional district, parish or county and municipality. We will continue our advocacy to ensure that all households have access to healthy, affordable homes served by clean energy.
Don’t allow the Trump administration to pass the cost of his political agenda onto America’s families.
For more: See this blog post by David Doniger, senior strategic director in NRDC’s Climate & Clean Energy program, on the proposal’s shortcomings and the history of carbon pollution law: Trump EPA’s “Dirty Power Plan” Coming Soon