BlueGreen Alliance, SEIU hit Trump’s dump of Clean Power Plan
The coal-fired Plant Scherer, one of the nation's top carbon dioxide emitters, stands in the distance in Juliette, Ga., June, 3. | Branden Camp / AP

WASHINGTON (PAI)—The BlueGreen Alliance and the Service Employees are blasting Republican President Donald Trump for dumping the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, the comprehensive cleanup of the nation’s coal-fired electric power plants. And state attorneys general from – at least – California, Massachusetts, and Illinois vowed to sue Trump to keep the plan going.

Scott Pruitt, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency administrator, formally announced he would dump the plan on October 9, in a speech in coal country, in Hazard, Ky.

The Clean Power Plan would cut carbon emissions by coal-fired power plants by approximately one-third, compared to 2005 levels, by 2030. The emissions are a key cause of ozone depletion in the atmosphere and global warming.

The plan led Trump to adopt the GOP slogan that Obama declared “war on coal.” He visited coal country several times, inveighed against the Clean Power Plan, promised to trash it, and won both neutrality from the United Mine Workers and a sweep of coal country in 2016.

Pruitt made his name as Oklahoma’s GOP attorney general by suing the EPA 12 times to stop its enforcement of clean air rules – suits lobbyists for his state’s dominant oil and gas industry helped draft. He called the Obama Clean Power Plan illegal and unworkable.

The BlueGreen Alliance and the Service Employees, however, see things differently.

“Americans want comprehensive solutions to address the threat of climate change that puts workers and communities first – something the administration is denying them with these latest efforts to rollback clean energy progress,” responded Kim Glas, executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance, which was co-founded by the Steelworkers and the Sierra Club, and which includes at least seven other unions.

Glas also noted resistance to Trump’s and Pruitt’s plans began even before Pruitt’s announcement, as state and local leaders stepped up to create climate change controls following Trump’s withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Those plans also “created quality jobs,” Glas said.

Glas forecast that such state and local progress would continue. “We urge them to continue to push for innovation for cleaner energy solutions, to protect communities and workers impacted by America’s shift to cleaner forms of energy, and to put resources in communities most affected by climate change and pollution,” Glas said.

Service Employees President Mary Kay Henry hung Trump’s and Pruitt’s announcement around the neck of corporate moguls.

“The Trump administration has spent the last ten months putting corporate profits ahead of working families’ healthcare, immigrant lives, and paychecks. Now President Trump and his EPA administrator, who has been wined and dined by oil company executives, are putting corporate profits ahead of our ability to breathe clean air.”

Henry noted her union’s one million health care providers often toil in communities which are subject to the most air pollution, seeing patients hit by diseases such as asthma as a result. “And too many of our members, from New York to Florida, have dealt with catastrophic weather disasters made more devastating by the greenhouse gases that will now be more prevalent in our atmosphere,” Henry said.

“We are not going to stop speaking up in one united voice until we have won a better future for our children. SEIU members and our communities will remember who supported this repeal when it’s time to go to the ballot box, and we will hold them accountable,” she promised.

Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts, by contrast, hailed the Trump-Pruitt withdrawal of the Clean Power Plan. He then urged the administration to “move quickly on a more reasonable rule” and to push carbon capture and storage – so-called “clean coal” – technology.

“We said from the very beginning of this rule that is was unworkable and far exceeded EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act,” Roberts said. “That’s why we filed suit against the CPP on the day it became final, that’s why we joined the successful motion to stay the rule at the Supreme Court, and that’s why we rallied our members again and again against this rule. We are not sad to see it go.

“Our view at the time this rule came out was that our government was placing the burden of solving global climate change squarely on the backs of American coal miners, their families, and their communities. And it was doing this while countries like China and India were continuing to build coal-fired plants. That is even more true today.”

Two attorneys general, California’s Xavier Becerra and Massachusetts’ Maura Healey, said they’d see the administration in court. Healey said others would join and Eileen Boyce, spokeswoman for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, said Illinois would be one of those.

“The Environmental Protection Agency has a legal responsibility to significantly reduce carbon pollution from power plants. This responsibility can only be fulfilled through a strong, effective, and science-based policy like the Clean Power Plan,” Becerra said. “Repealing it simply won’t cut it. I will do everything in my power to defend the Clean Power Plan.”

Becerra noted his state, the nation’s most-populous, “has already shown that we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants while growing our economy, and we refuse to let this administration shirk its responsibility at the national level.”

Healey said 23 other states, cities, and towns would join Massachusetts in court. She noted Massachusetts was the lead state in the original court case that forced EPA to regulate carbon emissions and the resulting ozone depletion.

Trump’s abandonment of the “Clean Power Plan violates the law and, like Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement, imperils the future of our planet,” she said.

“It is essential the EPA address our country’s largest source of carbon pollution – existing fossil fuel-burning power plants – to mitigate climate change’s growing and costly harms to the health of our residents and our economy. Along with our partners, Massachusetts fought for years to put this rule in place, and we will be suing to protect the Clean Power Plan from the climate change deniers in this administration who are trying to move us backwards.”


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.