From the Casper Star Tribune

The Environmental Protection Agency will hold a listening session Tuesday in Gillette to discuss the Clean Power Plan.

The federal agency responsible for the emissions-cutting Clean Power Plan will hold a public meeting today in Gillette, one of only three across the country this season as the agency plans to dissolve the Obama-era rule.

The Clean Power Plan would have dealt a painful blow to one of Wyoming’s key industries, and both its supporters and opponents are lining up to speak at the event in coal country.

Many of the arguments will be familiar to those who have followed the development, and more recent devolution, of the Clean Power Plan. Supporters say regulations to cut carbon dioxide emissions are a necessary step towards combating climate change. Others will criticize the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation as an unwieldy and ineffective tool that targeted the coal industry.

Some may criticize climate science, which identifies the burning of fossil fuels as the catalyst for human-caused climate change. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, along with others in the Trump administration, has expressed doubts about that conclusion, despite a widespread consensus of scientists from NASA to the University of Wyoming.

Finalized in 2015, the plan aimed to cut carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by about 30 percent compared to 2005 levels. It would start taking effect in 2022 and ramp up to full implementation by 2030. But the plan was immediately tied up in court when states like Wyoming objected.

Wyoming economists noted a potential 25 to 50 percent reduction in the state’s coal production if the plan was implemented.

President Donald Trump’s campaign promised to repeal the rule. The pledge sent a hopeful jolt through Wyoming’s coal industry, which at the time suffered from contractions in coal demand, bankruptcies and layoffs.

Gillian Malone, a supporter of carbon dioxide emissions regulations and a member of the Powder River Basin Resource Council said in a statement Monday that the coal industry will continue to face market pressures with or without the Clean Power Plan, noting the closure of coal plants across the country in favor of natural gas and renewables.

“The Trump Administration’s efforts to champion coal haven’t been successful in bringing coal back, and cutting the Clean Power Plan won’t save coal jobs and communities,” Malone said.

Travis Deti, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association noted that coal is juggling a number of challenges; however, the Clean Power Plan is a different beast.

“There is no doubt that we face headwinds,” Deti said. “We face competition from natural gas and low gas prices. But they are separate issues. This is dealing with the regulatory burden on the industry.”

The Clean Power Plan was designed to push coal out of the electricity mix, he said. A less-punitive approach that utilizes carbon capture technology would be preferable from industry’s perspective, he said, noting Wyoming’s work in capturing carbon dioxide and studying its alternative uses.

“You address the carbon dioxide. You solve it with technology, and you keep coal as a viable industry,” he said.

Repealing the Clean Power Plan is not a simple step. The Environmental Protection Agency is required to go through a similar process in undoing or rewriting the Clean Power Plan as it did when crafting it.

Tuesday’s meeting to discuss unraveling the plan is part of that public process.

Despite the contention over the Clean Power Plan, the Environmental Protection Agency is also hamstrung by an endangerment finding from 2009. It determined that carbon dioxide was a harmful emission that the agency had to regulate under the Clean Air Act. Under the finding, the agency will have to attempt to curb carbon dioxide emissions, of which coal-burning power plants are a key contributor.

The EPA originally only scheduled a single meeting in West Virginia coal country. It was heavily attended by both sides, and the department later scheduled three additional listening sessions in San Francisco, Kansas City, Missouri and Gillette.

Pruitt, the EPA administrator, will be visiting coal country later in the week to see Wyoming’s industry first hand. The state’s delegates to Washington applauded the visit.

“In our community, it doesn’t take long to understand how the coal industry is a source of reliable and affordable energy, a provider of high paying jobs and an amazing steward of the land,” said Sen. Mike Enzi, former mayor of Gillette “If a picture is worth a thousand words, being on the ground is worth more than a thousand pictures.”


Legal Notice