President Obama’s top environmental regulator said Friday that many coal-dependent communities in West Virginia and elsewhere are at risk of being “left behind” as the country moves away from coal power.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Climate divides conservative Democrats in reconciliation push 12 top U.S. officials to join Biden at major climate conference White House weighing steps to address gas shortages MORE stressed that the federal government ought to help those areas find new sources of economic development and move beyond coal.
McCarthy also said that the move away from coal, which she said would happen with or without Obama’s aggressive regulatory agenda, is causing a net increase in jobs.
“On the whole, what’s happened is jobs continue to grow. What happens, though, is some communities may get left behind,” McCarthy said Friday in a discussion with science educator Bill Nye about fighting climate change.
Nye had asked McCarthy about areas like Kentucky and West Virginia, which has been in the national spotlight this week as presidential candidates Donald TrumpDonald TrumpMcCabe wins back full FBI pension after being fired under Trump Biden's Supreme Court reform study panel notes 'considerable' risks to court expansion Bennie Thompson not ruling out subpoenaing Trump MORE and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMcCabe wins back full FBI pension after being fired under Trump Bill Clinton hospitalized with sepsis We have a presidential leadership crisis — and it's only going to get worse MORE sought to show that their plans are best for the state’s coal-dependent economy.
West Virginia’s presidential primary election is Tuesday.
Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, has promised to bring the coal industry and jobs back from the brink. Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, has been working to recover from her recent remark that she would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business” and has been promoting her $30 billion plan to revitalize coal-dependent areas.
McCarthy said Friday that recognizing the harm to coal communities does not mean that the country should abandon efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions or other harmful effects from coal.
“You don’t change the entire dynamics of the economics for those communities or deny they exist,” she said. “You invest in those communities so they continue to have opportunities moving forward.”
McCarthy plugged Obama’s Power Plus plan, which he’s proposed to invest in coal country and help communities adjust to new economic development and educational opportunities, among other measures.
Lawmakers from both parties, along with the White House, have backed a similar proposal they call the Reclaim Act, which would use abandoned mine fees for coal country transitions.
The Supreme Court put the administration’s main rule threatening the coal industry, the Clean Power Plan, on hold in February.
But McCarthy guaranteed that the country will meet its international promises on reducing greenhouse gases.
“Yes, yes,” McCarthy told Nye when he asked whether the country could deliver on its climate-related promises. “I have no equivocation whatsoever. None whatsoever.”
Obama pledged last year that the United States would cut its greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025, when compared with 2005 levels.
The pledge was part of the international climate agreement finalized last year in Paris, so it is not binding under international law. The administration has framed the Clean Power Plan as the main pillar of that promise.
But McCarthy said the existing greenhouse gas reductions that have happened without the rule and her confidence that the rule will be upheld mean that there is no reason to worry.
“We have already taken considerable steps. We have planned ahead,” she said.
“And for crying out loud, what we have is a pause in the Clean Power Plan. If anybody knows anything about EPA in writing rules, we rock at it, we do them legally, we do them on the basis of sound science.”
McCarthy continued, “And while there is a pause, there’s no pause in the action in the United States towards renewable energy and energy efficiency. We are going in exactly the direction our rule demanded, and we’re doing it because the markets demand it. We could not be in better shape than we are today.”