Since President Donald Trump cannot rely on Congress to accomplish what he wants legislatively, he has reverted to lawmaking through executive order. Last week, Trump issued a slew of executive orders reversing Obama-era policies he opposes. Among the actions was the repeal of the Clean Power Plan, which committed electricity generators to strict curbs on greenhouse gas emissions.
Critics of the move asserted that the pollution analysis the Trump administration used to help justify repealing the plan assumes that dirty air is safer to breathe than the Obama team did.
For now, forget the argument that the Obama-era plan lacked congressional authority. And let’s not even get into the Trump team’s pitch to coal country workers that in trying to limit planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions, the Obama administration was abusing its power and simply picking winners and losers in how we generate electricity in this country.
Instead, focus on these fundamental questions: Do we want dirtier air or cleaner air? And do we want to try to slow down the warming of the planet, or do we want to continue rushing headlong into an environmental future that will imperil our children and grandchildren?
When the Clean Power Plan was issued, then-EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said, “In 2030, this will mean up to 3,600 fewer premature deaths, 90,000 fewer asthma attacks in children, 1,700 fewer hospital admissions and avoiding 300,000 missed days of school and work.”
And with a warming world, fueled largely by the emissions at issue, repealing the rule means the end of the U.S. attempt to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. That will have real-world repercussions, as Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said last week: “Trump is abandoning U.S. leadership on climate change and ignoring clear evidence that it’s contributing to more severe natural disasters and rising seas. [Low-lying communities] should be a higher priority to the Trump administration than relieving big energy companies of the responsibility to generate less carbon pollution tomorrow than today.”
As with the president’s chipping away at the Affordable Care Act, this is another attempt at disruption by fiat. By repealing but not replacing greenhouse emissions controls, Trump leaves it to others to scramble to respond. The repeal of the rule calls for a public comment period of no set length to help assess how to replace it. Power companies are welcoming the regulatory limbo, but not all of them. Those who have made natural gas the core of their business plan now fear what can only be described as a tipping of the scales in favor of an environmentally dirty fuel source.
The EPA is required by law to regulate carbon dioxide emissions — because of the scientific evidence that those emissions are causing global warming. In the absence of clear scientific evidence to the contrary, we expect the president to help enforce that responsibility.