Front Porch Blog

Over the Line

A lot has been made of EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas rules, but a quotation from Cecil Roberts, President of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) will likely grab the most headlines.

The Navy SEALs shot Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan and Lisa Jackson shot us in Washington. – Cecil Roberts, 4/3/12

Sure, it’s pretty offensive, but let’s just focus on how overblown and wrong the statement is.

First of all, the proposed rule would only apply to future coal fired power plants that have not broken ground for construction within the next 12 months. In other words, all of the 1,226 coal fired power plants across the country will have to do exactly nothing under the proposed rule. They will continue to burn the same amount of coal as they would without the rule.

We’ve heard an uproar from the UMWA but there’s a reason environmental groups offered such tame applause. In practice, this rule would not change all that much. According to the proposal, EPA anticipates the rule “will result in negligible changes in GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions over the analysis period (2020).” Hardly worth popping the champagne over. Keep in mind that the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calls for a 25%-40% reduction of GHGs below 1990 levels by 2020 in order to avoid catastrophic impacts from climate change.



Mr. Roberts doesn’t deny the existence of human caused climate change, but offers up some flawed logic to show why such a rule shouldn’t exist.

You have to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions throughout the world. You can’t just regulate them through the EPA of the United States.

So the United States shouldn’t do its part because the rule won’t solve the entire problem? Or is he saying the United States shouldn’t do its part because others aren’t doing their part? Subtle difference, but both are wrong.

The EPA’s proposed GHG rule is necessary but insufficient. Appalachian Voices applauds the rule because it is a necessary step towards a clean energy future, not because it is sufficient in preventing climate change, which it is not.

Yet Cecil Roberts is losing his head and making outrageous statements because the EPA is trying to do something rather small to deal with a world altering threat that will lead to flooding, drought, heat waves, and sea level rise. If we can’t even get this done, we might as well all just move to the mountains.

P.S. UMWA, please stop blowing up the mountains. Turns out we’re gonna need them soon.

About Thom Kay

AV's Senior Legislative Representative, Thom spends his days between Durham, NC and Washington D.C., knee deep in politics and legislation, working to persuade decision-makers to protect Appalachian communities from mountaintop removal and to invest in a new economy for the region. He is the least outdoorsy person at Appalachian Voices, and he's just fine with that.


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