By Julie McNamara, Union of Concerned Scientists
On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold its only public hearing on the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, the Trump administration’s recently proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP) replacement.
The CPP was a landmark rule, setting the nation’s first-ever carbon standards for power plants. This proposed replacement would severely curtail that action, so much so that it could actually result in no reductions in emissions instead.
Indeed, the ACE proposal stares the reality of climate change right in the face and presses its foot on the gas. It is a stunning abdication of agency mission, an overt rejection of underlying statute, a blatant favoring of special interests over the well-being of the public.
And Monday makes clear the agency’s contemptuous disregard for the people caught in the way, offering just one chance for the public to have their voices heard.
A single day to hear from those in panicked disbelief that their public health protector is turning its back on them right when they need it most.
A single day to hear from communities ravaged by wildfires, inundated by floodwaters, knocked down by record heat.
A single day to hear from every parent looking at their child, every child looking at their future, and all wondering what comes next.
But as much as the Trump administration’s EPA may try to quash the public voice, people will be in Chicago on Monday, and people will be speaking out. People care about their future—the question is whether the agency with a mission to protect public health and the environment cares, too.
An agency in conflict
The reason for just one public hearing is that the ACE proposal is not designed to protect people. It is about doing everything the agency can—up to and including abandoning mission and statute—to find ways to protect coal profits instead.
It is the jumbled outgrowth of an agency trying to resolve two countervailing constraints:
- An uncontested obligation to regulate carbon emissions from power plants, and
- An administration-driven push to bolster the coal sector in every way it can.
Inconveniently for the agency, coal plants continue to be the dominant source of power sector carbon dioxide emissions, even as their share of electricity generation has plummeted in favor of cleaner and cheaper renewables and natural gas.
Also inconveniently for the agency, if it fails to issue a replacement regulation, then the CPP could enter into effect instead—a win for the public, but a problem for an administration fixated on wholesale regulatory rollback.
And thus the ACE proposal, a nonsensical plan that truly beggars belief, twisting an obligation to regulate carbon emissions into a standard that results in increased coal generation instead.
Registering public dissent
ACE erodes the safeguards erected to protect us—from laughably weak standards, to a jarring reordering of federal-state responsibilities and accountability, to a pernicious resurfacing of previously defeated regulatory work-arounds. All to the detriment of our health, our environment, our savings, our future.
On Monday, though coal bosses may be happy and polluters may feel relief, the record will reflect the public’s deafeningly angry roar.
On Monday, the voices of parents, of community advocates, of scientists, of people, will be speaking up and speaking out for the better future we all deserve.