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Barrasso Is Set To Continue The Clean Power Plan Fight

The Trump administration’s announcement that it’s rolling back the Obama-era Clean Power Plan is being greeted with glee by energy state lawmakers. The Clean Power Plan set goals for each state to reduce their carbon emissions in an effort to get the nation to move off dirty coal in favor of natural gas and renewable fuels.

That’s why Republicans like Wyoming Senator John Barrasso are glad the new administration has scrapped the plan.

“President Obama promised to bankrupt American Energy producers, and then he misused his power in order to do it. President Trump promised to promote American energy security and economic growth, and he’s following the law to do that.  The law never gave the environmental protection agency the authority to write its clean power plan.”

Canceling the Clean Power Plan comes after President Trump removed the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord that Obama had negotiated to decrease global emissions. Barrasso says Trump’s moves are being felt at home in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, which he saw firsthand last week.  

“Talking with folks from Gillette, there is a spring in the step of the people there now, because of the jobs and the economy. So we’re certainly heading in the right direction.”

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, has come under fire for having cozy relationships with the energy industry while not taking into account the concerns of environmentalists and scientists. But Barrasso defends him and says he’s leading the agency in the right direction.

“Scott Pruitt signed exactly the right thing. President Trump’s talking about energy dominance for America. I think it’s very important that we use all the sources of energy we have for our strong and healthy economy, and also when you’re sending the energy overseas, you’re exporting influence too.”

But the effort to roll back the Clean Power Plan is already being challenged in court by the state of Massachusetts and others are expected to announce challenges soon. The state’s senior senator Ed Markey says by not doing exhaustive research and getting broad input the EPA has set itself up to lose in court.

“I think what the Trump administration EPA is doing is arbitrary and capricious. I think there were a set of findings that we made by the last EPA that are grounded in research and conclusions that were reached after the long period of time. I think that any attempt to reverse will be ultimately viewed by the court as an arbitrary and capricious act.”

Markey says all of the cheers from people in Wyoming and other energy producing states are premature.

“I think that Clean Power Plan is going to be in court for a long time, for years.”

As for criticisms that the Obama administration over stepped its mandate? Markey says he and other Democrats tried pass it into law but the effort was filibustered by Senate Republicans. He was one of the lead authors of the climate change bill called Waxman-Markey.

“Well, again. The Clean Power Plan was inside of the Waxman-Markey Bill in 2009, and we did vote on it, and it passed 219-212, and the bill was killed in the Senate by Mitch McConnell.”

Barrasso and Markey do agree that it’s better for Congress to act than to have agencies creating energy policy, but Barrasso says it’s important for the new administration to check the last one.

“I think it’s better when laws passed and then when the law is obeyed. We have a Clean Air Act that President Obama chose to ignore, and go away beyond that. That’s why we find ourselves in this situation. But I always think that it’s better to have clarity by a law passed by the representatives of the American people than executive actions in any direction.”

Barrasso also says he’s not worried by the threat of lawsuits.

“So there’s going to be lawsuits back and forth, it’s the lawsuit that stopped Clean Power Plan in the first place, because it was overreach, and courts ruled that way. But this shouldn’t be a surprise.”

Barrasso is urging Secretary Pruitt to release his replacement plan soon so energy producers are given certainty.

“We sure need the certainty across the country for the energy, but we certainly want that in Wyoming as well, so that we can continue to use resources that we have, that we do in a very responsible way. We’re coal capital of the world, it’s affordable, reliable, secure source of energy, I think that people that work there do absolutely the best in terms of reclamation, in terms of providing healthy economy as well as a healthy environment.”

There’s speculation the replacement plan could take years to write, which could make the Clean Power Plan a center piece of the 2020 presidential election.

Based on Capitol Hill, Matt Laslo is a reporter who has been covering campaigns and every aspect of federal policy since 2006. While he has filed stories for NPR and more than 40 of its affiliates, he has also written for Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, Campaigns and Elections Magazine, The Daily Beast, The Chattanooga Times Free Press, The Guardian, The Omaha World-Herald, VICE News and Washingtonian Magazine.
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