EPA administrator Scott Pruitt announced Monday that agency plans to repeal the Clean Power Plan (CPP), President Obama's signature climate change regulation.
“The war on coal is over,” Pruitt said from Hazard, Kentucky, in the heart of coal country. “Tomorrow in Washington, D.C., I will be signing a proposed rule to roll back the Clean Power Plan."
Pruitt—who, as Oklahoma attorney general, was one of 12 states to sue the Obama administration over the CPP—has been called a "climate change denier" and a "fossil fuel industry shill" by the League of Conservation Voters. And he had big promises for the residents of Hazard. The EPA's new proposal, which was leaked to the Washington Post, argues that the Obama administration overstepped its authority by seeking to force utilities and other major polluters to cut their carbon emissions. However, Pruitt's EPA does not offer any other plan to reduce carbon emissions. Instead, according to the Post, the agency "plans to seek public input on how best to cut emissions from natural-gas and coal-fired power plants."
Pruitt and his supporters claim that dismantling the CPP will bring coal jobs back to Kentucky and elsewhere. They are lying. The Clean Power Plan hasn't even been implemented yet, thanks to lawsuits brought by Pruitt and his buddies. Coal isn't dying because of environmental regulations; it's dying because of the rise of inexpensive natural gas, decreasing demand from China, and, perhaps mostly importantly, job automation. While coal was once dug out of mountainsides by men and women (who were rewarded for their service with black lung), today, the coal industry has replaced humans with technology. Even the trucks that haul coal away from blast sites are frequently driverless.
“People think of coal mining as some 1890s, colorful, populous frontier activity, but it’s much better to think of it as a high-tech industry with far fewer miners and more engineers and coders,” Mark Muro, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, told the New York Times in March.
“The regulatory changes are entirely outweighed by these technological changes, not to mention the price of natural gas or renewables,” Muro continued. “Even if you brought back demand for coal, you wouldn’t bring back the same number of workers.”
Even coal executives know Pruitt's claims are BS. As Robert Murray, the founder and CEO of coal giant Murray Energy, told The Guardian. “I suggested that [Trump] temper his expectations. Those are my exact words. He can’t bring them back.” But clearly that won't keep him from lying about it.