The Environment Protect Agency’s (EPA) 2017-2018 “Year In Review” Report boasts that, under the direction of Trump-era Administrator Scott Pruitt, the agency has taken “action for the American people” (Environmental Protection Agency, 2018). However, their track record in the previous year suggests that their allegiance lie not with the American public, but rather with big oil and gas. Pruitt’s ties to the industry run deep; a 2017 Congressional probe forced Pruitt to disclose that companies such as ExonnMobil, Koch Industries, Murray Energy, and their peers contributed more than $300,000 to Pruitt’s various political endeavors (Dennis, 2017). His tenure so far largely focuses on serving these elite. Americans can have little faith that a man with such explicit ties to those who threaten the environment can act in its benefit without bias. Pruitt’s EPA recently rescinded the Obama-era Clean Power Plan that aimed to combat the effects of climate change. The agency has failed to propose any alternatives that place limits on emissions at this time. Shunning common-sense safeguards against the threat of global warming contributes to the opinion held by a majority of Americans who feel dissatisfied with the quality of the environment in the United States (Gallup, 2017).
Pruitt announced his intention to withdraw the legislation in front of a crowd of Kentucky coal miners who, as a spokeswoman asserted, “have a direct economic stake in policies aimed at curbing emissions from coal burning” (Eilperin & Dennis, 2017). This is where the EPA deviates from the truth. Coal miners form just one faction of the millions of Americans who have a stake in curbing emissions from coal burning. In reality, the agency simply aims to to further the interests of large corporation. Companies such as Peabody, formerly Peabody Energy, lobbied for the repeal of the Clean Power Plan since its conception. Peabody gained the more traction with Pruitt than his predecessors. They arranged a trip to Australia for Pruitt in August 2017 to meet with company officials in Brisbane. Just a few short months later Peabody’s goals were realized as Pruitt took action against the regulation.
American coal production, especially in Appalachia such as Kentucky, suffered from the Great Recession, falling year after year. A little over a third of the United States’ energy derives from coal and Western mines contribute the majority of production. Kentucky mines only employ a few thousand and that number continues to dwindle (Betz, Partridge, Farren, & Lobao, 2015). Pruitt’s recall of the Clean Power Plan does little to secure a future for this vulnerable population. It fails to provide them a path forward into an evolving world, instead merely offering a short-term remedy. As jobs available in the coal sector decrease, alternative sectors energy promise an option for a more economically and environmentally sustainable future. Natural gas “does not hurt small business development nor dampen entrepreneurship as…in the case of coal mining” (Betz et al., 2015).
Betz, M. R., Partridge, M. D., Farren, M., & Lobao, L. (2015). Coal mining, economic development, and the natural resources curse. Energy Economics, 50, 105–116. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eneco.2015.04.005
Dennis, B. (2017, February 16). Judge Orders EPA Nominee Pruitt to Release Emails with Oil, Gas, and Coal Industry. The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-scott-pruitt-epa-emails-20170216-story.html
Eilperin, J., & Dennis, B. (2017, October 9). EPA chief Scott Pruitt tells coal miners he will repeal power plant rule Tuesday: ‘The war against coal is over’’.’ Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/10/09/pruitt-tells-coal-miners-he-will-repeal-power-plan-rule-tuesday-the-war-on-coal-is-over/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d6069fef2ed9
Environmental Protection Agency. (2018). EPA Year in Review 2017-2018 (pp. 1–37). Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2018-03/documents/year_in_review_3.5.18.pdf