Scott Pruitt, who sued the EPA 14 times before he was tapped to run that very agency, seems content to continue the anti-environmental agenda he first put forth as Oklahoma’s attorney general. To prevent Pruitt and the Trump administration from overturning what is perhaps the Obama administration’s signature accomplishment on climate change, many of America’s mayors have banded together to speak out against such a damaging reversal of course.
In advance of an EPA listening session centered on its efforts to repeal the Clean Power Plan, 236 mayors representing 47 states and territories—and more than 51 million constituents— released a joint letter urging Pruitt to leave the proposal intact. Such a reversal of course, the letter from the self-proclaimed “Climate Mayors” argues, poses a serious threat to not only climate change mitigation efforts but also overall public health and the country’s finances as a whole.
Put forth by the EPA in 2014, the Clean Power Plan was intended as an effort to comply with the Paris climate accord and potentially reduce greenhouse gases released by sources of power generation by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Due to a series of judicial and legislative challenges, its implementation has stalled in the years since. An executive order signed by Trump in March of last year calls on Pruitt to take a closer look at the plan.
Mayors certainly have the authority to hold their municipalities to these standards. But, as they write in the joint letter, their efforts would be “highly sensitive to national policies like the Clean Power Plan, which shape markets, steer state action, and have large direct impacts on nationwide emissions.” The preservation of a federal plan to reduce energy sector emissions could “enhance ongoing local efforts and enable new local initiatives to improve public health, increase air quality, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy innovation.”
With the 2018 federal budget defunding the Clean Power Plan entirely, it looks to be on its way out unless the Climate Mayors’ arguments can sway the EPA’s thinking.To that end, the letter cites a report which estimates that coastal storm damage could cost as much as $35 billion annually by the 2030s. More starkly, a peer-reviewed study commissioned by the EPA projects that if global temperatures were to warm by an average of 4 degrees celsius between now and 2100, over 69,000 lives will be lost annually due to a combination of extreme temperatures and poor air quality.
Given that the repeal of the Clean Power Plan feels like a fait accompli, things aren’t looking great for the mayors. But perhaps the letter can lead to more meaningful collective action against climate change, perhaps through the application of models like "Resilient by Design" on a broader scale as municipal leaders are forced to take matters into their own hands.