Editor’s Note: Van Jones is the host of CNN’s “The Messy Truth.” He is president of The Dream Corps. Follow him on Twitter @VanJones68. The opinions expressed are his.
Van Jones: President Trump's decision to end the Clean Power Plan rests on falsehoods
The lies he told to justify his decision have real consequences for real Americans
As usual, Donald Trump is completely upside down on the facts.
In 2015, President Barack Obama created the Clean Power Plan to slow climate disruption. It was the first action ever taken by the US government to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants.
And this week, with the stroke of a pen, President Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take steps to end it.
Trump may have just signed a death warrant for our planet (at least, for a planet that is liveable for humans). And the lies he told to justify it have real consequences for real Americans, here and now.
First, Trump says he wants to dismantle the Clean Power Plan because it represents what he calls “job-killing regulation.” False – limited losses in some sectors are dwarfed by gains in others.
The potential for job growth in the clean energy sector dwarfs any potential job growth in the fossil fuel economy. For example, Trump promised the Keystone XL pipeline would create 28,000 jobs when he approved the project. But he had to use a huge multiplier to get to even that low number. In fact, it would create about 3,000 temporary construction jobs and only 35 permanent jobs. That’s right: 35 permanent jobs.
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By comparison, in 2016 the number of jobs in solar grew 25% from the year prior, according to figures from the nonprofit Solar Foundation, while jobs in the rest of the economy had less than 2% growth. Renewable energy jobs now create jobs 12 times faster than the rest of the economy.
For Trump to ignore this fact is inexcusable and irresponsible. He’s actually hurting the people he claims to help by refusing to invest in opportunities for more jobs in the booming clean energy sector.
By the way, if Trump really cares about those coal miners he invited to the signing ceremony, he should be doing something about the 20,000 who are sick, retired, and within weeks of losing their health benefits if Congress doesn’t act. When will Trump call a press conference about them?
Second, Trump claims that the Clean Power Plan was an EPA overreach – an abuse of its authority. Again, false. The plan is based on Republican President Richard Nixon’s Clean Air Act. And the EPA’s authority to fight climate disruption was established by a ruling of conservative Chief Justice John Roberts’ Supreme Court, under President George W. Bush. In Massachusetts v. EPA (2007), five justices determined that EPA not only has the authority but also the responsibility to cut pollution if it endangers public health – which it does.
Curbing carbon pollution – and defending America’s land, water and people from other potentially lethal threats – is neither a liberal value nor a conservative value. Protecting Americans from climate chaos is in everyone’s interest.
Third, Trump says eliminating environmental regulations will make America great again. Remember when we had burning rivers? That wasn’t so great.
If we follow the Trump trajectory, we’re going to be bringing smog back to American cities, accelerating asthma rates in children, putting more poison in the groundwater and costing a lot of Americans their lives.
Trump wants to focus on “job-killing regulations.” We should be equally concerned about potentially child-killing de-regulation.
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Government must balance the interests of people’s ability to earn a living … against their ability to actually live. Trump seems to have completely forgotten this.
For example, Kamita Gray in Brandywine, Maryland is living on the frontlines of some of the worst pollution in America. Brandywine is in Prince George’s county, which has a population that is 65% African American. This community has three power plants in its backyard already. Two more are being developed. The air quality is so bad there that when the wind blows, people do not leave their homes.
It will be communities like Brandywine that are left to deal with the brunt of fossil fuel pollution from power plants in their neighborhoods. If Trump wants to make America great again, he needs to remember that Brandywine is a part of America, too.