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Hundreds Gather To Debate The Clean Power Plan, Future Of Coal

Gov. Matt Mead speaking to a pro-coal rally at Gillette College prior to the official EPA listening session
Cooper McKim
Wyoming Public Radio

Hundreds of people from across the mountain west gathered Tuesday at Gillette College to discuss the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan, or CPP. That’s a 2015 Obama-era rule that would force states to limit greenhouse gas emissions at power plants. Many see it as the former president’s key piece of legislation to combat climate change. In October of 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took the first step towards a repeal.  

This is the fourth and last listening session nationwide the EPA is holding on the repeal of the CPP. Before the event began at 9 a.m., pro-coal supporters gathered upstairs in a Gillette College building. Many spoke including Governor Matt Mead, a Cloud Peak representative, and executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association Travis Deti. Some in the audience held signs saying “Coal = Jobs,” “Coal Supports My Family,” and “Coal Keeps the Lights On." 

Deti encouraged the audience to vote pro-coal and to stand up and speak in support of the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan.

"You got to tell them what this industry means to you and continue telling your story and making your voice heard,” Deti said.

Downstairs, environmental advocates gathered in a small room. Shaina Lynn Oliver was there with the group, Moms Clean Air Force. She's a member of the Navajo tribe, and she's against the proposed CPP repeal. She spoke about her grandfather and how he was hurt by the coal industry.  

“He was pushed into early retirement due to his asthma attacks on the job site at the coal plant. He suffered a lot through his health with asthma and not being able to breathe,” Oliver said as she began to cry. "I found out he passed away this morning.”

She said a transition away from dirty energy is necessary now to avoid consequences for future generations. 

Soon after, the official comment period began. Governor Matt Mead and U.S. Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso were the first to speak. They supported the repeal.  

Sen. Barrasso said, “The last administration's regulation wasn’t just bad policy, in my opinion, it was illegal. The agency went way beyond their authority.”

Mead called the rule biased and overly broad. He called for innovation to reduce emissions over-regulation. 

"We did not move from candle to the light-bulb because of regulation or the carriage to the car because of regulation, but because of innovation,” Mead said.   

Later in the day, Shannon Anderson, staff attorney with the Powder River Basin Resource Council, said, “given our state's reliance on fossil fuels the CPP will have consequences. But it also creates opportunity. For mine reclamation jobs and diversifying our economy. It can prevent pollution and benefit our economy.” 

Environmental advocates added a majority of Americans support federal action on climate change. There was a total of nine hours of testimony scheduled for speakers from around the region. The comment period on the repeal ends April 26. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is touring Wyoming coal country this week.

Before Wyoming, Cooper McKim has reported for NPR stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina. He's reported breaking news segments and features for several national NPR news programs. Cooper is the host of the limited podcast series Carbon Valley. Cooper studied Environmental Policy and Music. He's an avid jazz piano player, backpacker, and podcast listener.
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