On Aug. 21, The Environmental Protection Agency announced its plan to replace the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. Introduced in 2015, the Clean Power Plan made headlines as a key domestic climate policy designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and encourage states to turn to cleaner sources such as wind, solar, nuclear, and natural gas. While the plan hasn’t yet gone into effect — the Supreme Court put a hold on it in 2016 — many states are already on their way to meeting, or even beating, the set targets.
Trump has been working hard to dismantle Obama’s climate policies since taking office last year. In his campaign, he championed the return of coal, despite the fact that coal plants have continued to close at a rate of one every 16 days. A report by the Sierra Club shows that since 2010, 270 coal-fired power plants have fully retired or are slated to.
“We love clean, beautiful West Virginia coal,” Trump was reported saying at a rally held this week in West Virginia. “And you know, that’s indestructible stuff. In times of war, in times of conflict, you can blow up those windmills, they fall down real quick. You can blow up pipelines...you can do a lot of things to those solar panels, but you know what you can’t hurt? Coal.”
The Trump administration’s proposed replacement, known as the Affordable Clean Energy proposal or “ACE,” would grant individual states more flexibility in how to regulate and reduce emissions. According to the EPA Fact Sheet, it would also “promote investments to make coal plants cleaner, modern, and more efficient.”
“As people of faith, we have a moral calling to be faithful stewards of God’s creation and care for vulnerable peoples, but this new plan will do the exact opposite,” said Emily Wirzba, FCNL’s Legislative Representative for Sustainable Energy and Environment said in a news release. “The recent wildfires, hurricanes, and floods that are devastating communities around the country paint a clear picture: the impacts of climate change are already happening and causing irreparable harm.”
The New York Times was quick to point out that the administration’s own analysis shows that the new policy could cause up to as many as 1,400 premature deaths annually by 2030 due to an expected increase in air particulates linked to heart and lung disease.
“Trump’s EPA has issued a death sentence for thousands of Americans with the deceitfully named ‘Affordable Clean Energy’ rule,” Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade, author of Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit told Sojourners. “This is gaslighting at its finest. The Trump administration is once again manipulating the public with subterfuge, claiming that their new rules rolling back regulations on the coal industry will benefit America. Nothing could be further from the truth. This plan is only ‘affordable’ for the fossil fuel industry, while the rest of us will bear the costs of 15,000 new cases of upper respiratory problems, a rise in bronchitis, asthma, and heart disease. Not to mention tens of thousands of missed school days for America’s vulnerable children.”
Jason Miller of the Franciscan Action Network noted that the plan will also disproportionately impact low-income communities where power plants are often located.
“Scott Pruitt and his scandals may be gone but it is clear that Andrew Wheeler is still going to continue to carry out Donald Trump's deadly policies,” Miller told Sojourners. “People of faith and goodwill should speak out and follow the example of Pope Francis in Laudato Si who encourages all of us to 'hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.'"
Now that the proposal has been submitted, the public has 60 days to send comments before it is finalized.
“America should not be made a sacrifice zone just to prop up a dying energy sector,” Schade concluded. “The future for American energy is in true clean power – solar, wind, efficiency, and new technologies that protect the health of our communities. Let’s train American workers in these high-paying jobs that will sustain their families without demanding the trade-off of sickness and death.”