The Real Lowdown: The Trump and Congressional Republican Assault on Our Environment, Vol. 32

A Clean Power Plan hearing in coal country, using the tax bill to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and more questionable actions from Pruitt.
Credit: Rob Crandall/Shutterstock

A Clean Power Plan hearing in coal country, using the tax bill to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and more questionable actions from Pruitt.

Scott Pruitt must have thought it was awfully clever to hold the only public hearing on his climate destruction plan in the heart of coal country.

It certainly underscored his goal to turn the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency into the Emissions Promotion Advocate—that seismic shifting of its mission from safeguarding our health into stumping for dirty fuels. But the EPA administrator might not have foreseen who would turn out, in force, at the gold-domed state capitol building in Charleston, West Virginia, for the hearing on Pruitt’s proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan.

The tally was nearly 4–1 against Pruitt’s effort to eliminate the country’s first effort to curb power plant carbon pollution, a key driver of climate change. Almost 200 of the men and women who spoke out at the two-day public hearing defended the Clean Power Plan. Just under 50 people spoke in favor of Pruitt’s plan to kill it—in the town where long coal trains snake alongside the Kanawha River.

On one side stood Bob Murray, head of one of the nation’s largest coal mining companies, who told EPA officials that the Clean Power Plan was harming the livelihood of coal miners, including the several dozen who sat nearby in the hearing room.

On the other stood Stanley Sturgill, a 72-year-old Kentuckian who mined coal 41 years and who said that emissions from coal-fired power plants and other pollutants had damaged the health of friends, family, and neighbors. “Our health, environment, and global climate are actively being destroyed,” he told EPA officials. “For the sake of my grandchildren and yours, I call on you to strengthen, not repeal, the Clean Power Plan.”

Also speaking out was David Doniger, head of NRDC’s Climate & Clean Air program, who told EPA officials that keeping the Clean Power Plan in place would not only curb harmful carbon pollution but also drive clean energy, one of the fastest-growing segments of our economy. “Three times as many Americans work in clean energy as in coal, oil, and gas,” Doniger said. “At the same time, we recognize that this economic opportunity isn’t equally spread across our country. So let’s invest in coal country to fix that.”

Khalil Shahyd, of NRDC’s Urban Solutions program, told EPA officials in Charleston that the climate plan would stimulate energy efficiency measures, reducing energy costs for low-income Americans, but eliminating it could raise their energy bills $17 per month by 2030.

So it went over the two days: Moms, dads, doctors, scientists, activists, business leaders—including dozens working in clean energy with the pro-business Environmental Entrepreneurs—and others from across West Virginia and nearby states trooped to the microphones or submitted letters to support the Clean Power Plan. A number, including Doniger, also called on Pruitt to hold additional public hearings around the country in areas affected by climate change, but whether that will happen remains to be seen.

In other ways, the Trump administration and congressional Republican efforts to undermine health and environmental protections continued this week and will persist in the coming week.

Arctic Refuge Opened in Tax Bill

At press time, the GOP-led Senate was working feverishly to push through a tax measure that would open, for the first time, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas drilling while barely trimming major tax giveaways to the fossil fuel industry. The bill also was set to undermine wind and solar incentives, even as it slashed taxes on corporations and the rich.

“Republicans have tilted their tax scheme to the well-off and the well-drillers in America,” said NRDC’s legislative director, Scott Slesinger. “If this disastrous measure is signed into law, Americans will be paying a dear price for decades to come.”

EPA Hearing on Repealing Glider Truck Standards

Looking ahead, the EPA is holding a public hearing on December 4 another element of the Trump administration’s climate destruction plan: Pruitt’s effort to repeal Obama-era standards curbing emissions from the trucking industry. The standards would close a loophole that has allowed trucking companies to get around stricter pollution standards that apply to new trucks by combining a new frame with an older, dirtier engine. These trucking components are called gliders and trailers.

“Reopening this loophole is an unconscionable move that could cause the premature deaths of 1,600 Americans from just one year of dirty truck sales,” said Luke Tonachel, director of NRDC’s Clean Fuels Project.

Pruitt to Testify on Capitol Hill

Pruitt is scheduled to testify in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s environment subcommittee on December 7. When he appears on Capitol Hill, he could be questioned about having more than four dozen meetings, calls, or speaking engagements with business or industry groups since May, including speaking engagements with right-leaning groups like the Heritage Foundation, the Federalist Society, the Tea Party Patriots, Conservative Action Project, Americans for Tax Reform, and the Manhattan Institute.

That’s this week’s Real Lowdown. NRDC has prepared a list of other far-ranging threats. And we’re vigilantly reporting on the administration’s assault on the environment through Trump Watch and fact-checking President Trump’s misstatements in Trump Lies.

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