Scott Pruitt Can’t Stop the Death of Big Coal

October 10, 2017

By Jeff Goodell –

I wrote my first story about the coal industry back in 2001, published a book called Big Coal in 2006 and have been following the industry ever since. And if there’s one central truth that I’ve learned during that time, it’s this: Virtually no coal industry leader, lobbyist or hack politician believes coal has a future in America. Everyone else knows it’s a dead industry walking. The only question now is how much money they can extract, and how much damage they can do to our health, our economy and the climate, before Big Coal sinks into the tar pit of history.

I tell you this because this is the only way to really understand EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s announcement this week that he’s going to gut President Obama’s signature climate achievement, the Clean Power Plan. This is hardly a surprise. From the moment Pruitt was confirmed by the Senate earlier this year, it was a foregone conclusion that he would try to emasculate the Clean Power Plan. This was the whole point of his nomination – the thing he had been preparing for all his professional life. The only question was how soon he would do it, and what legal arguments he would make to justify it.

The Clean Power Plan was one of Obama’s central accomplishments during his second term. The plan established state-by-state targets to cut the carbon pollution from power plants by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Despite what the coal industry says, these were hardly radical targets, and were simply a slow acceleration of decline that was going to happen anyway. But politically, they were hugely important. It was part of the run-up to Paris, a key part of the deal, making our pledge credible and allowing the nations of the world to come together to build a new framework to dramatically cut carbon pollution in the coming decades.

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