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What has the 'environment' done for us, anyway?


In yet another promise fulfilled to the extraction industries that helped get Donald Trump elected, the Environmental "Protection" Agency announced today that it would take the formal steps needed to repeal Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan, the former president's rules aimed at nationwide reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. Global warming is, after all, nothing but a Chinese plot to make America less competitive, so we need to move forward with burning all the coal we can, even though cleaner energy sources are more economical for electric utilities.

At an event in eastern Kentucky, Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said that his predecessors had departed from regulatory norms in crafting the Clean Power Plan, which was finalized in 2015 and would have pushed states to move away from coal in favor of sources of electricity that produce fewer carbon emissions.

“The war on coal is over,” Mr. Pruitt said. “Tomorrow in Washington, D.C., I will be signing a proposed rule to roll back the Clean Power Plan. No better place to make that announcement than Hazard, Kentucky.”

In celebration of the secretary's announcement that coal has won the war, the town will no doubt soon be renamed Environmental Hazard, Kentucky.

Repealing the Clean Power Plan will severely limit America's ability to meet the nation's carbon-reduction goals under the Paris Climate Accord, which is just fine because Trump already announced he'd trash the Paris agreement back in June. The Clean Power Plan's limitations on carbon emissions were prevented from going into effect last year by the Supreme Court while lawsuits filed by states and corporations are considered by multiple lower courts. Surprise! When Scott Pruitt was Oklahoma's Attorney General, he actually filed four different challenges to the Clean Power Plan, among 14 anti-EPA suits he pursued, with the help of energy industry interests. And now that he's running the EPA (into the coal-rich ground), Scott Pruitt finally wins!

In announcing the return to Dirty Power, Pruitt proclaimed that America would save $33 billion by setting aside the regulations, and don't you go talking about the health effects of more oil and coal being used to generate electricity, because there aren't any. Obama just made that shit up. The failing New York Times insists on its fake news narrative that burning more fossil fuels would somehow have bad effects, which is just silly:

Coal- and natural-gas-fired power plants are responsible for about one-third of America’s carbon dioxide emissions. When the Clean Power Plan was unveiled in 2015, it was expected to cut power sector emissions 32 percent by 2030, relative to 2005. While many states are already shifting away from coal power for economic reasons, experts say scrapping the rule could slow that transition.

Environmental groups and states whose governments are not wholly owned subsidiaries of the fossil fuel industry are already planning to sue to keep the EPA from rescinding the Clean Power Plan. A number of industry groups that are looking forward to burning everything they can extract from the ground also want Trump's EPA to go beyond just repealing Obama's regulations, and would like to see a new set of regulations on power plant emissions that would let them pollute like crazy, but within defined limits that would protect them from pesky environmental lawsuits. Thanks to a 2009 court decision, the EPA is still responsible for regulating carbon dioxide emissions. In place of the Obama rules, which encouraged utilities to shift from coal-fired power plants to cleaner natural gas and carbon-free sources like wind and solar, the industry hopes Pruitt will call for slight improvements in coal plant efficiency, which would result in incrementally smaller carbon emissions.

The news for carbon reduction isn't altogether grim, however; the proposed changes will still have to go through the usual public comment period and will be subject to challenges in the regulatory process, as well as the courts. Many states and industries also remain committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and natural gas remains far less expensive than coal. Clean energy is also becoming more affordable and economically productive; nationally, solar and wind already employ more people than coal and natural gas. And as the Times notes,

A new analysis by the research firm Rhodium Group estimated that United States electricity emissions are currently on track to fall 27 to 35 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, roughly in the range of what the Clean Power Plan originally envisioned, even if the regulation is repealed.

Unfortunately, the author of that analysis, John Larsen, also estimated that if Obama's Clean Power Plan had remained in place, emissions in as many as 21 states would have been cut significantly, where now they'll continue with dirtier fossil fuels. Yay for Louisiana and Texas and Oklahoma and Pennsylvania, which can take on the burden of fucking up the planet for everyone else! Beyond EPA repealing the Obama regulations, other Trumpfuckery, like an Energy Department plan to encourage more coal use, may also help reduce the gains being made in cleaner energy:

Jody Freeman, director of the environmental law program at Harvard Law School, said the Energy Department proposal combined with the Clean Power Plan repeal signals the Trump administration is putting its thumb on the scale in favor of fossil fuels.

“You see a pretty powerful message. Disavow any effort to control greenhouse gases in the power sector, and instead, intervene in the market to promote coal. It’s a wow,” she said.

Next, expect the Department of Transportation to require that any vehicle that's too energy efficient include a coal-powered radio. Further expansion of the hybrid and electric vehicle market segment may be discouraged by requiring purchasers to pay in polar bear pelts.

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[NYT / NYT / ThinkProgress]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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