The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) traveled to the heart of coal country for a public hearing concerning a proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Coal miners, environmental activists, union leaders, government officials and concerned citizens offered competing opinions during the first of a two-day hearing in Charleston, West Virginia. 

“As proposed this rule was intended to be the knock-out punch for our industry” said West Virginia Coal Association Senior Vice President Chris Hamilton. “In reality, the costs associated with the Clean Power Plan are real, but the benefits are not.”

Bob Hypes, general manager of South Fork Coal, called the CPP an unlawful attempt to impose cap and trade legislation. He held such EPA legislation responsible for corporate and personal bankruptcies in the coal industry. Hypes also testified that those regulations had little effect on climate change.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) also supported EPA’s efforts to repeal the CPP. Daniel Chartier, NRECA’s regulatory director of Environmental Policy, said, “NRECA supports EPA’s efforts to repeal the Clean Power Plan, and strongly encourages EPA to propose and finalize a 111(d) rule, consistent with the history of the regulation,” Chartier said. “Both actions are needed to provide America’s electric cooperatives and their members with a rule that is clear and durable. We encourage EPA to act quickly to develop a common-sense, flexible replacement rule for the Clean Power Plan that is legally defensible and ensures the flexibility, affordability and reliability of electricity production for Americans who depend on electric cooperatives.”

Those opposed to the CPP’s repeal cited environmental concerns and related health effects.

Retired coal miner and black lung survivor Stanley Sturgill called out EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and President Donald Trump, saying their actions were accelerating pollution and further degrading air quality.

Ben Levitan, an Environmental Defense Fund attorney, testified that “EPA has a legal and moral responsibility to protect Americans from air pollution that destabilizes our climate and damages our health. EPA’s proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan — especially without committing to any meaningful replacement — would put more Americans in danger.”

“Repealing the Clean Power Plan would be deeply harmful to the health and well-being of communities nationwide,” said Levitan in his testimony.

Repeal opponents also highlighted booming employment in the renewable energy sector, calling into question the Trump Administration’s objective to develop energy jobs.

“Clean energy jobs have outnumbered all fossil fuel jobs 2.5 to 1,” testified Mindy Zlotnick, a citizen of Buckingham County, Va.

The EPA plans to determine whether the Obama-era regulation exceeds the Agency’s statutory authority. The agency will accept comment on the proposal until January 16, 2018.  

A repeal would be in line with the Trump Administration’s initiative to reduce regulatory burdens in an effort to facilitate affordable energy resource development. Repeal supporters described the Obama Administration plan as an overreach of power, underlining economic losses over the past eight years in coal-mining states.

Soon after the Obama Administration issued the Clean Power Plan in 2015, 150 entities including 27 states, 24 trade associations, 37 rural electric co-ops, and three labor unions challenged the CPP, highlighting a range of legal and technical concerns, according to EPA.

The CPP was put on hold in February 2016, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of the rule. According to an EPA press release, repeal of the plan would save $33 billion in compliance costs by 2030.

On March 28, 2017, Administrator Pruitt signed a notice indicating the EPA’s intent to review the Clean Power Plan, in accord with the President’s Energy Independence Executive Order.  On October 16, the EPA proposed to repeal the Clean Power Plan, proposing that it is not consistent with the Clean Air Act.