The repeal of the Clean Power Plan and what it means for us
Scott Pruitt recently announced the repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), a landmark climate change rule which would have dramatically cleaned up the way we produce energy. To understand why Reform Judaism opposes the repeal and the impact of the decision, it is important to know some of the history behind the CPP. The Clean Power Plan is a policy established under the Obama Administration and coordinated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Announced in 2015, the CPP created a joint federal and state plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants, the United States’ largest source of carbon pollution. The Plan set greenhouse gas limits in states, then allowed them to pursue a flexible set of policies to decrease their emissions. Overall, the CPP would have reduced our nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions to 20 percent less than our 2005 levels by 2030.
By Jonah Baskin
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Last October, 24 states filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of the plan, claiming it was an EPA overreach and infringed on state’s sovereignty. While the CPP was supposed to go into effect in 2016, a stay while litigation over the plan progressed prevented the CPP from ever being implemented.
On September 27, 2017 a panel of ten judges from the Court of Appeals heard some beginning arguments on the case, but allowed the Trump administration 60 days to review the case and decide how exactly it planned to proceed. That 60 day period just ended, and the Trump administration has decided to repeal the CPP altogether. The formal rulemaking process to repeal the CPP will begin tomorrow.
This decision will cost lives. One of the major benefits of the CPP was its role in winding down coal-fired power plants. Coal-fired plants, built disproportionality in poor neighborhoods and communities of color, have significant health impacts. The CPP was estimated to stop 3,600 premature deaths, 1,700 heart attacks, 90,000 asthma attacks and 300,000 missed days of work or school every year.
The Clean Power Plan was also a key piece of meeting our emissions goals from the Paris Agreement, and doing our part to prevent catastrophic climate change. Climate change also threatens lives and, like coal fired power plants, disproportionately effects the most vulnerable. We have seen recently in the cases of Harvey, Irma and Maria how climate change can exacerbate deadly hurricanes, and we know climate change will continue to worsen cases of drought, famine, and disease.
As Reform Jews, our tradition calls on us to fight for the wellbeing of fellow humans. The Babylonian Talmud Yoma 82A teaches us that “Nothing stands before the duty of saving a life.” Today, the lives of our neighbors were endangered by a shortsighted decision. During Sukkot, as we eat and sleep under the sky, we are especially aware of the importance of maintaining clean air and limiting greenhouse gases.
Our commitment to climate justice remains resolute. While our federal government might have decided to vacate its responsibilities today, there is hope in that many states are leading the way in limiting greenhouse gas emissions and protecting lives. You can help by contacting your governor and urging them to keep us on track for our Paris goals.
Jonah Baskin is an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. A native of Denver, he recently graduated with honors from the University of Chicago with degrees in public policy and environmental studies. Jonah served as president of the university’s Jewish Students’ Association and as the social justice chair on the Hillel board. This article originally appeared at The Religious Action Center’s website. Cartoon by Tom Toles on GoComics.)