President Donald Trump promised voters he would “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C. — and this week he tore to shreds one of former President Barack Obama’s favorite legislation.
The move has liberals upset — and coal miners cheerings.
A coalition of left-leaning states and environmental groups are vowing to fight the Trump administration’s move to kill an Obama-era effort to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.
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Speaking Monday in the coal-mining state of Kentucky, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said he would be issuing a new set of rules overriding the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of Obama’s controversial drive to global climate change.
“The war on coal is over,” Pruitt declared, adding that no federal agency should ever use its authority to “declare war on any sector of our economy.”
It was not immediately clear if Pruitt would seek to issue a new rule without congressional approval. Without it, Pruitt’s rule wouldn’t become final for months, and is then highly likely to face some legal challenges.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a longtime Obama ally, was among those who said they will sue.
“The Trump Administration’s persistent and indefensible denial of climate change — and their continued assault on actions essential to stemming its increasing devastation — is reprehensible, and I will use every available legal tool to fight their dangerous agenda,” said Schneiderman, a Democrat.
For Pruitt, getting rid of the Clean Power Plan will mark the culmination of a long fight he began as the elected attorney general of Oklahoma. Pruitt was among about two dozen attorney generals who sued to stop Obama’s 2014 push to limit carbon emissions, stymieing the limits from ever taking effect.
Pruitt rejects the controversial opinion of scientists that say man-made emissions from burning fossil fuels are the primary driver of global climate change.
Trump, who appointed Pruitt and shares his skepticism of established climate science, promised to kill the Clean Power Plan during the 2016 campaign as part of his broader pledge to revive the nation’s struggling coal mines.
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In his order Tuesday, Pruitt is expected to declare that the Obama-era rule exceeded federal law by setting emissions standards that power plants could not reasonably meet.
Pruitt appeared at an event with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at Whayne Supply in Hazard, Kentucky, a company that sells coal mining supplies. The store’s owners have been forced to lay off about 60 percent of its workers in recent years.
While cheering the demise of the Clean Power Plan as a way to stop the bleeding, McConnell conceded most of those lost jobs might never come back.
“A lot of damage has been done,” said McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. “This doesn’t immediately bring everything back, but we think it stops further decline of coal fired plants in the United States and that means there will still be some market here.”
Obama’s plan was designed to cut U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The rule dictated specific emission targets for states based on power-plant emissions and gave government bureaucrats broad latitude to decide how to achieve reductions.
The Supreme Court put the plan on hold last year following legal challenges by industry and coal-friendly states.
The withdrawal of the Clean Power Plan is the latest in a series of moves by Trump and Pruitt to dismantle Obama’s legacy, including the delay or roll back of rules limiting smokestack emissions and water discharges from coal-burning power plants.
On Thursday, Trump nominated former coal-industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to serve as Pruitt’s top deputy at EPA.
“This president has tremendous courage,” Pruitt said Monday. “He put America first and said to the rest of the world we are going to say no and exit the Paris Accord. That was the right thing to do.”
Government statistics show that coal mines currently employ about 52,000 workers nationally — a 4-percent uptick since Trump became president.
The Associated Press contributed to this article