Science & Technology

Trump wishes to overturn Clean Power Plan, states in danger

President Donald Trump has authorized Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to override the Clean Power Plan. Pruitt began the fight against the Clean Power Plan as the attorney general of Oklahoma. Now, as director of the EPA, Pruitt is trying to overturn the plan by declaring that it exceeds the law.

Pruitt has sued the EPA over 14 times. He argues that forcing utility companies to take outside measures, such as building solar and wind farms and closing power plants, is against federal law. He suggests that greenhouse regulations should be limited to existing plants.

Pruitt wants a more modest replacement for the Clean Power Plan and wants to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement because it would save the United States $33 billion.

The Clean Power Plan was proposed to help the United States lower greenhouse gas emissions, a goal the country expressed during Paris climate agreement talks in 2015.

In December 2015, more than 196 nations adopted the Paris climate agreement, a new international legally binding program that combats climate change.  The agreement aimed to achieve a net-zero of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Under the Paris climate agreement, the United States pledged to decrease the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26 percent below 2005 levels, by 2025. The Clean Power Act was seen as a critical contributor to that goal because power plants constitute one-third of the country’s emission.

Under former President Barack Obama, the plan aimed to decrease carbon dioxide emission by 32 percent by 2030.  It aimed to achieve this goal by regulating power plants and their carbon dioxide emissions according to consumption.

It was flexible in the ways states could reduce carbon emissions. States’ options included investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency and natural gas.

The Clean Power Act has never been executed. Over two dozen states sued the EPA when the plan was proposed, and the Supreme Court momentarily prevented passing the law in 2016.

Even though the Clean Power Plan has never taken effect, Trump has already declared his intention to repeal the act.

Repealing the Clean Power Plan would affect Americans’ health.  Under Obama, the EPA estimated that the Clean Power Plan could prevent up to 6,000 premature deaths and up to 150,000 asthma attacks. In addition to asthma, there are more illnesses correlated with pollution.

Paul Billings, senior vice president at the American Lung Association, asserted, “Pollution from power plants can affect anyone. People with chronic diseases, like diabetes, and cardiovascular disease are especially vulnerable.” A repeal of the Clean Power Plan will put kids and the elderly at greater risk of diseases.

This repeal sounded promising to coal miners. Trump and Pruitt indicated their support for coal miners when they pledged to bring back coal jobs.

Coal mining jobs, however, will not come back due to natural gas. Natural gas is a cheaper alternative to coal and is less polluting.

In addition, most of the coal mining jobs are done by machines, not human labor.

Jeremy Richardson, a Union of Concerned Scientist senior energy analyst said, “a significant portion of today’s coal fleet can’t economically compete with cleaner energy options.”

Coal mining jobs are not likely to return, even if Trump repeals the Clean Power Plan, because there is a higher cost associated to coal compared to the cost of natural gas, or other renewables.

The Clean Power Plan gave each state a target that they must achieve. The EPA would assign standards for pollutant emissions for each state. The state would then propose a system for how to achieve that standard to the EPA, aiming to reduce carbon dioxide.In hindsight, even after the revocation of the Clean Power Plan, New York would have still met its mark. In addition, New York expects to retire its last coal units by 2020. Not only would New York have beat its target, more than 22 states would also beat the standards assigned by the EPA under the Clean Power Plan.

Climate change is a very crucial matter, and with the repeal of the Clean Power Plan, climate change will only get worse.

To combat climate change, Baruch College students can try taking shorter showers, use energy-efficient technologies, drive cars with more gas per mileage and take public transportation. Lastly, they can talk with legislators to show support for the Clean Power Plan

October 23, 2017

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Juan Carlos Vergara


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