Editorials

KC listening session came up with no good reason for the EPA to repeal the Clean Power Plan

Mayor Sly James discusses his support for the Clean Power Plan

At the Environmental Protection Agency's listening session in Kansas City Wednesday, Kansas City's mayor explains why he and other cities' officials support continuing the Obama administration's policy.
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At the Environmental Protection Agency's listening session in Kansas City Wednesday, Kansas City's mayor explains why he and other cities' officials support continuing the Obama administration's policy.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James implored the Trump administration not to “put our citizens at risk” by repealing President Obama’s signature Clean Power Plan to fight climate change by limiting carbon pollution from power plants. Then a representative for Missouri Attorney General and Republican senatorial candidate Josh Hawley, who spoke right after James at Wednesday’s Environmental Protection Agency “listening session” here, asked the agency not to put jobs at risk, or threaten the state’s right “to set less stringent standards.”

There was no comparison between the many who came to beg the EPA to rethink its plan to repeal the CPP, and the few who came to thank the agency for looking out for industry. (Or as they put it, for businesses and consumers.)

There was no comparison between the emotion in, for example, the statement read on behalf of the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, which argued that Obama’s plan would hike energy costs and provide new opportunities for cronyism, and the two speakers who followed him, both of whom lost their composure when they spoke about how much a repeal would hurt their grandkids.

“Are we really going to leave our grandchildren a planet with dying oceans and coastal cities sinking below the waves?” asked one of them, retired Army officer Stephen Melton, from Parkville.

A man, drawing oxygen from a tank, told the panel that “cheap but dirty energy is no bargain.”

Doctors talked about the spike in deaths from respiratory ailments, and a program manager from the National Parks Conservation Association spoke of the millions we’re already spending to mitigate climate-related flooding that also costs us in lost tourism jobs and dollars.

Drew Johnson, who described himself as an environmental job seeker, reasoned that the “little bit of regulatory overreach” that critics allege is not that big a whoop vis-à-vis “millions of people’s lives and the future of our planet.” Given that choice, he said sardonically, “I guess I’ll advocate against” repeal.

But opponents didn’t win only on emotion.

As Kansas City Councilman Jermaine Reed testified, “We don’t have to choose between a healthy economy and healthy environment.”

It’s pretty hard to see the Clean Power Plan as a job-killer when the workers most in demand in the country right now, according to federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, are solar panel installers and wind turbine service technicians.

Missouri already has 55,251 clean energy jobs — and that number grew by 5.3 percent between 2015 and 2016, more than three times faster than the state’s economy overall. There are 600,000 clean energy jobs in the Midwest alone, compared to a total of 50,000 coal miners in the U.S. and 20 in the coal industry in Missouri.

All these feelings and facts put together aren’t likely to dissuade the Trump administration, especially since it was current EPA director Scott Pruitt who as attorney general of Oklahoma led some two dozen states in filing lawsuits against the Obama plan. The Supreme Court has put its implementation on hold while those cases work their way through the courts.

But the decision does seem, as Mayor James told the panel, to be based on nothing more than the president’s desire to keep a campaign promise.

When the repeal was announced last fall, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper told The New York Times that his state was on track to exceed the Clean Power Plan’s goals by closing coal plants ahead of schedule and investing in renewable energy. As a result, he said, “we have dramatically cleaner air and we are saving money. My question to the E.P.A. would be, ‘Which part of that don’t you like?’”

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