GOP on the defensive over climate change after the Pope’s address to Congress

U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe, R-Okla.,, chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, turned a Sept. 24 address by Pope Francis to a joint session of Congress that in part called for action on climate change into an attack on President Barack Obama’s new Clean Power Plan, which is designed to address climate change and came after the GOP-controlled Congress failed to act on the issue.

The Clean Power Plan, a final version of which was released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Aug. 3, calls for 32% greenhouse gas reductions from existing power plants by 2030.

Said Inhofe in a statement released after the Pope’s speech: “As the Pope stated in his address, Congress has an important role to play in how the United States cares for our environment. When Congress and a White House administration work together, we can address environment policy in a way that improves the livelihood of Americans while also protecting and even bolstering future economic opportunity for our nation. I know this first-hand as an original sponsor of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. Since the original Clean Air Act became law, Americans are breathing the cleanest air in several decades and we continue to reduce pollutants in our environment as a result of this policy.”

Inhofe added: “Unfortunately, President Obama has taken a different approach during his time in office. He instead has worked for the past seven years to cut Congress out of environmental policy by way of regulatory overreach with his so-called Clean Power Plan. The president is even using these climate regulations to make promises to the international community that are unachievable and will have no measurable impact on his objective of changing global warming patterns. Instead, the president’s climate policies will cost our economy $479 billion, increase electricity prices across the nation by double digits, and rob Americans of well-paying jobs and future economic growth.

“Those who stand to lose the most are the poor, as well as minority populations, who spend the largest portion of their expendable income to heat their homes. As Harry Alford, president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, highlighted before the EPW Committee this summer, the president’s climate policies will result in a cumulative job loss of 7 million for Blacks and nearly 12 million for Hispanics by 2035. The president’s climate agenda stands to create more poverty, not less.

“Congress does have an important role to play in our environment, and my committee has put forward bipartisan solutions, to include reforming the Toxic Substance Control Act, reauthorizing the Brownfields program, and sending EPA’s regulations back to the drawing board with suggested improvements from Congress. I hope the president will take heed to the Pope’s words, and he will consider the policies we are putting forward to care for our environment while also safeguarding America’s prosperity.”

Coal producers say cheap energy is economic justice

The National Mining Association, which represents major coal producers, said in a Sept. 24 statement that the U.S. coal industry is mindful of its responsibilities as stewards of the Earth as well as its role in providing people and industries with essential energy. The impressive reductions in power plant emissions, the dramatic improvements in mine safety and the extensive reclamation of land following mining operations all testify to this enduring commitment, it added.

“The Pope’s message this week invites attention to the plight of the World’s poor and the moral obligation of affluent nations to raise the living standards of those less fortunate,” said NMA. “Fossil fuels, especially coal, have been responsible for lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in the past 30 years, more people that have been freed from poverty in the past 300 years.”

The United Nation’s 2015 Millennial Development Goal to “eradicate extreme poverty and hunger” by 2030 cannot be achieved without providing reliable and affordable electricity to the world’s energy poor still living in darkness, NMA added. Senior officials in the developing world have said the use of coal and other fossil fuels is “a moral imperative” for eliminating poverty and to improve health care, education and life expectancy.

Said the Pope in his speech on this issue: “In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to ‘redirect our steps,’ and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference, I’m sure and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a ‘culture of care’ and ‘an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.'”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.