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Source: CTPost

Connecticut vows to fight rollback on environment

BY BILL CUMMINGS

Posted: March 29, 2017
Originally Published: March 28, 2017

A move by President Donald Trump on Tuesday to scrap federal rules that improve air quality and combat climate change drew swift opposition in Connecticut and threats of lawsuits to reverse the new course.

“[It’s] a dangerous detour from the progress our nation has made to protect the quality of the air we breathe and the health of the American public,” said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. “The president’s latest executive order signifies a lack of leadership from Washington.”

The order signed by Trump directs the federal Environmental Protection Agency to dismantle former President Barrack Obama’s signature Clean Power Plan, which placed strict emission standards on power plants and factories that burn fossil fuels.

The standards helped convince the owners of a waterfront coal burning power plant in Bridgeport to switch to natural gas. The plant has long been blamed for health problems in the surrounding neighborhood.

Pollution from coal plants and factories in the Midwest routinely waft over Connecticut, causing summertime “bad air” days and warnings that vulnerable residents should stay inside. State officials have sued those states over slack enforcement of anti-pollution regulations and embraced Obama’s Clean Power Plan as a victory in that battle.

”The Clean Power Plan was one of the most important steps forward the federal government has made to address climate change and promote clean air in our nation’s history,” said Louis Burch, program director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment.


Environmentalists cautioned Trump’s executive order is only a first step in a lengthy process required to unravel the Clean Power Plan.

”It’s important to understand that Trump’s action is symbolic and there is a long process involved to change a rule,” said Claire Coleman, a climate and energy attorney for the Connecticut Fund for the Environment.

”But Trump is sending a signal that profits matter more than health and we intend to fight that,” Coleman said, adding opponents will likely file lawsuits to stop the Trump administration plan.

Jobs and air

Trump heavily criticized the Clean Power Plan during the presidential campaign, blaming it for killing coal mining jobs and other industries. He has declined to say that human activity — the burning of fossil fuels — is causing global climate change, despite scientists across the world who endorse that conclusion.

The president signed the executive order at the EPA while surrounded by coal miners.

”With this executive action, I am taking steps to cancel job killing regulations,” Trump said, while also pledging to maintain clean air and water.

”The miners told me about the attacks on their jobs and efforts to shut down their mines,” the president continued. “I made them this promise: we will put our miners back to work. Today, I’m taking bold action to follow through on that promise.“

Trump said his order eliminates “government overreach and allows our companies to thrive and succeed on a level playing field. We are ending the theft of prosperity.”

Earlier in his term, Trump signed an executive order to dismantle Obama-era clean water rules adopted by EPA to prevent small waterways from sending pollution to larger bodies such as Long Island Sound.

The Clean Power Plan has been tied up in federal court for more than a year over challenges from opponents. The U.S. Supreme Court stayed the rule until those disputes are settled.

Opponents — including former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who now heads the EPA — claim the emission standards are too strict, kill jobs and exceed EPA’s authority.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn, said Trump’s move erodes “commonsense rules” that protect all citizens.

”The Trump Administration’s decision to undo the Clean Power Plan flies in the face of reality, threatens our safety and signals an utter disregard for the future of our planet,” Blumenthal said.

Wrong time

Robert Klee, commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said now is the worse time to turn away from preventing climate change.

”It is hard to pick a more inauspicious moment to beat a retreat,” Klee said. “When temperatures on our planet have now surpassed the previous record high three years in a row and weather patterns of severe storms and drought are more erratic than ever.”

Klee noted Connecticut residents have been living for months in unprecedented drought conditions.

”As a coastal state and a state with watersheds along several major rivers, the impacts of climate change are real and can be severe,” Klee said, adding the state will continue its efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Connecticut has already pledged to reduce emissions from all sectors to 80 percent below 2001 levels by 2050.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn, said Trump will be judged for his environmental stance.

”This executive order aims to unravel years of progress we’ve made to curb pollution, protect our air and water and speed-up the adoption of clean energy technologies around the world,” Murphy said. “Future generations will judge President Trump for this attack on our health and our safety.”

Chris Phelps, director of Environment Connecticut, said the only way to solve the climate crisis is to replace dirty power plants with solar and wind power and increased energy efficiency.

”That’s exactly what the Clean Power Plan will help accomplish,” Phelps said.”The Clean Power Plan would slash that pollution by a full third by 2030. Along the way, the plan will also help reduce smog and soot pollution, resulting in fewer asthma attacks, fewer premature deaths and a more stable and habitable climate.”