It’s taken awhile—several years in fact—but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finally come to West Virginia to hear testimony about the Clean Power Plan. There’s plenty of pent up demand to be heard. As many as 200 people will have testified yesterday and today at the State Capitol.
The EPA under the Obama administration created the Clean Power Plan as a broad stroke against global warming. The rules set impossibly low carbon emission standards for power plants to force the coal industry out of business, while driving up electricity costs.
The EPA’s hostility toward coal through the CPP and other enforcement measures severely damaged the coal industry. Miners lost their jobs and coal companies went bankrupt. Hundreds of mine supply companies lost business. Good jobs and tax revenue disappeared.
Coal was also hit hard by market forces such as plentiful and low cost natural gas and an increasing desire by the public to use more renewables. However, it’s undeniable that having a government agency target an industry for elimination is pretty bad for business.
The EPA under the Trump administration is reversing course, and the hearings in Charleston this week are evidence of that. The EPA is now rolling back the Clean Power Plan, but there is a process for that which includes field hearings.
EPA Region III Administrator Cosmo Servidio told reporters Tuesday President Obama’s EPA went beyond its authority when it tried to impose the draconian carbon standards.
“Clearly the Clean Power Plan was an overreach by the previous administration, and this is an opportunity for us to get some feedback as we move forward,” he told reporters. “It’s important that we’re here in West Virginia, coal country. Obviously the coal industry was going to feel the biggest effects of the Clean Power Plan.”
And that’s why the previous administration’s EPA never bothered to come here. The agency knew its argument in support of a rule that would have no discernible impact on global temperatures would not wash with coal miners worried about losing their livelihood.
Obama’s EPA also knew it was on shaky legal footing. Its exploitation of a few words of the Clean Air Act to remake the nation’s energy economy was a clear abuse of its power. Notably, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on the Clean Power Plan, a legal decision normally made when the challenging side has a reasonable chance of success when the merits of the case are argued.
The previous administration’s EPA shut out West Virginia. Even veteran lawmakers like former Congressman Nick Rahall, who always had a working relationship with the agency, was stiff-armed. The anguished voices from suffering coal communities fell on deaf ears.
But this week those voices are finally being heard.