A New Low for Trump: Gutting the Clean Power Plan

The president wants to undo the biggest step we’ve taken in the fight against climate change—and we’re not about to let him get away with it.
Credit: iStock

The president wants to undo the biggest step we’ve taken in the fight against climate change—and we’re not about to let him get away with it.

President Trump is waving the white flag on the central environmental challenge of our time, surrendering our children’s future to the growing dangers of climate change and sounding a full retreat from the vast promise of cleaner, smarter ways to power our future.

Even for a president devoted to putting industrial polluters ahead of the public interest, Trump has plumbed a new low in ordering the Environmental Protection Agency to eviscerate the Clean Power Plan, one of the greatest strides we’ve made in the fight against climate catastrophe. The plan, put simply, calls for cleaning up the dirty power plants that account for 40 percent of the nation’s carbon footprint. We can’t protect future generations against the worst impacts of climate change without cutting that carbon pollution.

We don’t have time to waste moving backward. Last year was the hottest since global record-keeping began in 1880. It was the third record-setting year in a row. Sixteen of the hottest years on record have occurred in this century, and everyone can see the results: rising seas, blistering heat, withering drought, widening deserts, and raging wildfires, storms and floods.

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan strikes a blow against these mounting dangers, reducing carbon emissions from our power plants nearly one-third by 2030. And the plan does so by advancing the very progress in efficiency and renewable power at the core of the broader clean energy transition that’s created more than three million American jobs. These are good-paying jobs for carpenters, electricians, steelworkers, engineers, tool and die makers, and other heartland workers eager for employment that can’t be outsourced or shipped overseas. The gains they’re already making, moreover, are positioning a new generation for success in a global clean energy market set for some $7 trillion in investment in the decades to come.

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By doing what’s best for our people at home, we’ve been able to gather the entire world around the epic shift away from the dirty fossil fuels driving climate change. That’s how this country led China, India, and more than 180 other nations to join us in putting actual plans on the table, in Paris a little more than a year ago, to curb or contain fossil fuel pollution and all the damage and risk it brings. That was a triumph of American leadership, something to build on going forward.

While Trump’s senior advisers wage a battle royal over whether to walk away from that diplomatic victory, he’s already undercut the Paris accord by reneging on the essential American commitment to clean up our dirty power plants at home.

Imagine the tone that sets for U.S. diplomacy and the credibility that underpins it. Imagine, also, the opportunity it creates for China to step into the climate and clean energy leadership vacuum created by Trump’s reckless and shortsighted approach.

Whomever we voted for in November, nobody voted to walk away from those climate and clean energy gains. Nobody voted to shortchange our workers in the economic play of our lifetime. And nobody voted to abandon our children to the ravages of rapid sea-level rise, searing heat, unforgiving drought, and more frequent wildfires, floods, and severe storms.

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Trump and his fossil fuel allies are out on their own on this one. The rest of us need to stand up and speak out on behalf of the stakes for the country.

As Trump tries to unwind the Clean Power Plan, he’s going to find that it’s grounded in law, supported by science, and informed by the public interest. That’s a powerful combination that won’t easily be undone.

When Congress passed the Clean Air Act, by overwhelming majorities from both sides of the aisle, it mandated protection against air pollution that endangers the public health. The Supreme Court has ruled in this matter, making clear that the EPA has the authority to regulate carbon emissions as a pollutant, if the agency determines it to pose a danger.

Climate change endangers our lives and the natural systems that support all life. Sharp spikes in heat-related respiratory illness and other maladies? Mass extinction of species? The spread of diseases like the Zika virus? The fate of our oceans and coasts, forests and foodways? Once-arable lands rendered uninhabitable? Those are real threats―to all of humankind.

The Clean Power Plan reduces those dangers in ways that rest on the foundation of science, the accumulated knowledge of decades of research and peer-reviewed studies demonstrating the need to cut carbon pollution today so our kids don’t inherit climate chaos tomorrow.

And the plan is informed by public opinion. More than 4.3 million public comments ―from citizens around the country, as well as from industry, indigenous peoples, power companies, environmental advocates, and others―make clear the public interest in advancing this plan.

Trump may be ready to throw in the towel in the fight for our children’s future, but the rest of us are not. To surrender our children to climate chaos, retreat from the promise of our clean energy future, and put polluter profits ahead of the public interest, Trump will have to buck our laws, sound science, and the will of the people. We’re not about to let him do that.

We owe it to the country to stand and fight Trump and his extremist agenda. And that’s exactly what we’ll do.

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