By KEN WARD JR.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As two days of testimony wrapped up this week on the Trump administration’s proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan, calls continued for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to schedule more public hearings before it moves forward.
Numerous witnesses during testimony on Tuesday and Wednesday at the state Capitol told EPA officials that one hearing in West Virginia isn’t enough on a broad policy that affects the whole country.
Robert Klee, commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, called it a “cruel joke” that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt scheduled the only public hearing on the Clean Power Plan repeal proposal in the middle of coal country, where President Donald Trump’s action was certain to receive strong support.
Klee also noted that the EPA has yet to say exactly how it will replace the Clean Power Plan, something that the Trump administration will have to do unless it also decides to try to undo the 2009 finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare.
“Repealing the Clean Power Plan without a replacement is illegal,” Klee said.
At issue at the hearing is the Trump EPA’s proposal to basically reverse a key part of the legal arguments the agency used under former President Barack Obama to justify the Clean Power Plan. The proposed repeal, published in October, said the Obama plan was illegal because it proposed to have power companies reduce greenhouse emissions by making system-wide changes, such as switching from coal to natural gas or renewables, rather than mandating only certain emissions reductions that could be achieved at specific plants.
The EPA has said it is considering whether to hold additional hearings and what kind of replacement for the Obama plan it might issue.
The Charleston hearing drew a warm welcome from coal industry officials and area politicians, who repeatedly noted that the Obama EPA had refused multiple requests to hold a hearing in West Virginia before moving forward with the Clean Power Plan.
“What a complete turnaround from the previous administration, which refused to even hold a hearing here in the heart of coal country,” said West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, whose office obtained a rare U.S. Supreme Court order delaying the Clean Power Plan’s implementation.
Environmental groups, though, repeatedly made an issue this week of the fact that Pruitt has so far not announced additional hearings.
“The people of West Virginia deserve to be heard, as they are being heard now,” said David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “And so do people in other parts of this country affected by climate change and power plant pollution. One public hearing to consider repealing the plan is utterly inadequate and disrespectful to the millions of Americans who have a vital stake in this decision.”
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