In June 2014, President Obama announced the most aggressive action ever taken by the United States to fight climate change. The Clean Power Plan, proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency, laid out plans to cut power plants’ 2005 carbon emission levels by 30 percent by 2030. Republicans, the Koch Brothers and the fossil fuel industry, specifically the coal burners, immediately cried foul. They claimed that the proposal was a job killer (their go-to fear mongering doomsday prophecy) that would have no real effect on climate change. The GOP, then did what they always do, when their corporate overlords’ profits are in danger: sued the government and proposed legislation that had no chance of passing, all while trying to cut the EPA’s budget. Fortunately for us, and the planet, their lawsuit was squashed Tuesday, on the same day a study was released that found the Clean Power Plan will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. Checkmate, Republicans.
When Obama took office in 2009, one of his most important plans was to pass a climate change bill that would reduce the nation’s contribution to the ozone destruction that is having devastating effects on our planet; unfortunately, his plans failed, during his first term, when right-wing climate change deniers stood in his way. To rectify this during his second term, he decided to use his executive authority to make changes to the Clean Air Act of 1970 and that’s how the Clean Power Plan (CPP) was born.
The CPP took aim at our country’s largest source of carbon pollution: power plants. Under the rule, states would each be given different levels by which they would have to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. To do this the EPA gave states a number of options– like investing in solar energy or join “cap-and-trade” programs– instead of just closing power plants down. It didn’t matter how many different options the EPA and Obama Administration gave states, Republicans and the coal industry still claimed that it would kill thousands of jobs. Not surprisingly, they were wrong according to a new study released by the Economic Policy Institute.
The study, released on June 9, found that not only would the CPP not kill jobs, it would create hundreds of thousands. The EPA originally estimated that the regulations would create 120,000 jobs by 2020, but lose 24,000 as the country moved away from harmful coal plants. Josh Bivens, the author of the new study, found that the number of jobs is actually going to be 360,000 by 2020– three times more than what was originally predicted. Bivens said that by 2030, when the employment benefits will have been reduced, the net increase of jobs created will be 24,342. So much for the Republican “Obama is killing jobs” lie.
On the same day the study was released, a lawsuit brought against the EPA by 14 states and the nation’s biggest coal companies was dismissed by a federal court. The lawsuit, Murray Energy v. E.P.A., challenged the CPP, calling it government overreach. Three circuit court judges at the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, ruled that the lawsuit was premature because the EPA had only introduced the changes to the Clean Air Act in draft form.
“Petitioners are champing at the bit to challenge E.P.A.’s anticipated rule restricting carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants,” Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the opinion. “But E.P.A. has not yet issued a final rule. It has issued only a proposed rule. Petitioners nonetheless ask the court to jump into the fray now. They want us to do something that they candidly acknowledge we have never done before: review the legality of a proposed rule…..We deny the petitions for review and the petition for a writ of prohibition because the complained-of agency action is not final.”
While the EPA and environmentalists can breathe a sigh of relief today, the battle is a long way from being over. Last month, Senate Republicans introduced a bill that they hope will kill the president’s climate change plans. The Affordable Reliable Energy Now Act is sponsored by 25 Republicans and one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.). It will set stricter requirements for the EPA to meet in regulating power plants and states would be allowed to opt-out of any future regulations if the governor rules that the regulations would have a negative impact on the state or until all legal challenges are exhausted. If the bill were to pass, Obama would veto it, but that’s not stopping the GOP.
On top of court challenges and dead-on-arrival bills, a House panel recently approved massive spending cuts to the EPA. The cuts would include a 9 percent budget cut next year and would block not just the CPP, but rules on water oversight; proving the GOP cares about clean and plentiful water as much as they care about you being able to breathe. Republican budget cuts have crippled the agency that is in charge of making sure our environment is livable; since they took office in 2011, the EPA has lost more than 20 percent of their funding. Many of the lawmakers in the Party of Environmental Destruction don’t even believe that the EPA should exist.
All of this just further proves that the Republicans have no interest in making sure our children and grandchildren have a habitable earth. The Koch Brothers and the other fossil fuel barons have been trying to dismantle the EPA for years but have decided to settle for decimating their funding. Even though it is now obvious that the Clean Power Plan will not hurt the economy, the right will continue to fight it because it hurts their donors’ bottom line. It was never about “jobs” because as Republicans have proven, with their absence of jobs bills, it’s clear the right doesn’t care whether or not the American people are working; it’s all about profits.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.