We don’t have to choose between a strong economy and a healthy environment

Today’s News Journal featured an Op-Ed I penned responding to President Trump’s dangerous abandonment of crucial environmental protections. Last month, President Trump walked away from the Clean Power Plan, a proposal put forward by former President Obama to set the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants. Delaware, sitting at the end of “America’s tailpipe” would have greatly benefitted from these common-sense, long overdue protections. 

Instead, the President ignored the billions in medical costs and thousands of potential lives saved from cleaner energy sources and he doubled-down on dirtier fossil-fuel burning energy that now costs more for many Americans than clean solar or wind energy. In case you missed my Op-Ed in today’s News Journal, I hope you’ll take a minute to read it below. We’re at a pivotal point in the fight to protect our shared planet from the growing threat of climate change. We can’t afford to move backward now. 

The News Journal: We don’t have to choose between a strong economy and a healthy environment

Sunday, April 9, 2017

By Sen. Tom Carper

Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is fond of quoting Yogi Berra who once said, “the future ain’t what it used to be.”

As a life-long baseball fan, I always appreciate a quip from one of the greats. Unfortunately, Yogi’s words have become reality under this administration. Mr. Pruitt and President Trump have prioritized reversing much of the progress we’ve made over the last eight years and begun moving our country backward. Under this administration, the future ain’t what it used to be. Instead, it’s beginning to look bleak – very bleak.

The Trump Administration claims that the agenda they are pushing is “pro-environment” and “pro-jobs.” Let’s be perfectly clear. It is neither. The actions this administration has taken have put our environment at risk and threaten to slow the economic gains we’ve made. And perhaps most important, this administration has jeopardized America’s position as a global leader.

Last month, when President Trump changed course on smart fuel efficiency standards for the cars and trucks we drive every day, he said he was doing it to bring back “American prosperity.”

But the truth is, since the adoption of these standards in 2009, we have seen a remarkable resurgence in America’s auto industry. It has added 700,000 jobs since then, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, and hit record sales in each of the last two years. If kept in place, these standards are expected to create tens of thousands of additional jobs in the U.S. by 2030, while providing certainty for the auto industry and helping to stem the tide of climate change.

When President Trump opened the door to weakening these successful, forward-looking standards, he sent a signal to the rest of the world that addressing potent greenhouse gas emissions and reducing our dependence on foreign oil are no longer priorities for the U.S.

Two weeks later, when the administration decided to abandon the Clean Power Plan, Mr. Pruitt and President Trump said it was to save the coal industry. As a West Virginia native whose father worked as a coal miner for a short time as a young man, I have a special appreciation for the challenges facing this industry and its employees. But the hard truth is that the Clean Power Plan isn’t the coal industry’s problem – market forces are.

President Trump’s actions will not bring back the coal industry. Even the coal industry knows that! For the president to continue to say otherwise is an insult to the men and women who voted for him.

Despite the investment with my support of some $20 billion dollars in clean coal technology here since 1999, our coal industry has been in decline. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are fewer than 75,000 coal jobs left in the U.S. today, compared to the nearly 3.2 million jobs in the clean energy sector, which added 70,000 jobs in the last year alone.

President Trump’s claim amounts to little more than an empty promise. But his actions put America’s credibility at risk.

The Clean Power Plan is our country’s first-ever federal roadmap to reduce dangerous carbon pollutants from power plants.

If implemented, it would create tens of thousands of jobs, cut greenhouse gases by one-third by the year 2030, prevent thousands of premature deaths and asthma attacks in children, reduce electricity bills for homes and businesses, all while providing $54 billion in climate and health benefits every year.

In my home state of Delaware, we’ve demonstrated that reducing carbon pollution is good for the economy. Since 2009, Northeastern states, as part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), have cut carbon pollution by 18 percent, while their economies have grown by nearly 10 percent and produced $5.7 billion in health savings and other benefits.

President Trump: simply saying you want a clean and healthy environment does not make it so.

Mr. Pruitt recently acknowledged that the U.S. has made remarkable strides to reduce pollution while growing the economy. But that didn’t just happen by accident. That progress was the direct result of making significant investments in clean energy research and development, setting favorable tax policy and smart, reasonable regulations, and leveraging the purchasing power of the United States. That progress was the result of real leadership and a hopeful vision for the future.

Since 2010, the Obama Administration facilitated the longest-running economic expansion in American history. We’ve added 16 million jobs while taking the most significant steps ever taken to tackle the greatest environmental challenge of our lifetime.

Now that is a “pro-jobs, pro-environment” agenda!

Instead of focusing on rolling back climate and clean air protections, we should be fostering new economic opportunities in distressed communities that may be dependent on the old world order. If we don’t, President Trump will cede leadership on this issue to other global powers, like China.

America doesn’t just sit back and wait for others to address global challenges. For two centuries now, we’ve led the way. Addressing climate change should be no different.

John Quincy Adams once said that a leader leads by example whether he intends to or not. The world is watching us.  Let’s lead! Otherwise, Yogi will be proven right, and the future – our future – really won’t be what it used to be.