The following editorial was originally published in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin.
The United States has made great strides since the latter half of the 20th century to reduce air pollution. Unfortunately, it feels as if many of the federal mandates that have led to improved air quality are being altered or rescinded by the Trump administration with seemingly little thought to the long-term consequences.
This week Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson essentially took legal action on behalf of the state that, if successful, could force a halt to upending the of environmental protections. Ferguson joined a coalition of 22 states and seven local governments in filing a legal challenge to the Trump administration’s decision to replace the Clean Power Plan with its Affordable Clean Energy rule.
The Obama administration’s EPA adopted the Clean Power Plan in 2015 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. The Trump administration’s replacement, the Affordable Clean Energy plan, gives the power to individual states to set performance standards for coal power plants that do not require carbon emissions reductions.
According to the petition for review filed Tuesday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the repeal and replacement of the Clean Power Plan is a violation of the Clean Air Act.
A news release issued by the Ferguson’s office contends the new rule pushed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency would result in an increase in air pollution compared to the Clean Power Plan. The EPA’s own analysis shows that the increased pollution will likely cause thousands more illnesses and deaths per year, according to the release.
Whether the analysis offered by Ferguson’s office is fact or just opinion, the concerns raised are nevertheless worth investigating. Clean air is critical to the nation’s collective health and our quality of life. It makes little sense to take a step backward and put the nation at risk unless there is a good reason.
Ferguson and the other state attorneys general are demanding the changes to the law be justified.
“This rule is yet another example of the Trump administration pandering to fossil fuel industry interests at the expense of human health and the environment,” Ferguson said. “The Trump administration’s new ‘Affordable Clean Energy’ rule is neither affordable nor clean. It’s a thinly veiled attempt to loosen restrictions on coal power plants, allowing them to operate much longer than they should, increasing air pollution and carbon emissions. Trump’s EPA repeatedly falls short of its duty to protect the environment, and it shows — Washington has won seven cases challenging the EPA’s shortsighted decisions.”
Again, the concerns expressed by the 22 state attorneys general are valid and deserved to be examined fully before changes are made.