NewsPublic Affairs / March 28, 2017

Indiana Coal Advocates Cheer Trump Climate Order

Article origination IPBS-RJC
Duke Energy's Gibson Power Station. - Courtesy Duke Energy

Duke Energy's Gibson Power Station.

Courtesy Duke Energy

Indiana is one of 28 states suing the Environmental Protection Agency over the Clean Power Plan, which President Donald Trump began rolling back Tuesday. And Trump’s move has industry advocates cheering.

The Clean Power Plan would reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 30 percent nationwide in an effort to slow man-made climate change.

Some coal plants in Indiana have already begun switching to natural gas in part to comply with Obama-era regulations and former Gov. Mike Pence sued the federal government over the Clean Power Plan. The new executive order makes the future of the plan and the lawsuit uncertain.

Attorney General Curtis Hill’s office declined to comment until it’s had a chance to review the executive order.

But Indiana Coal Council President Bruce Stevens says, in the short term, the order will provide some regulatory relief for the coal industry. And in the long term, Stevens says it might even allow for the development of new coal plants.

“As it is today, the standards for new plants — there’s no technology that exists to attain it,” says Stevens.

Praise also came from the governor’s office. Back during the gubernatorial campaign, he called the order “draconian.” And in a written statement today, Gov. Eric Holcomb touted the virtue of state innovation:

“States understand best how to innovate and diversify when it comes to energy production in ways that strengthen, rather than hinder, economic growth. Today’s executive action to begin unraveling the Clean Power Plan gives Indiana freedom from Washington’s once-size-fits-all overregulation, protects Hoosier taxpayers, and ensures that cleaner coal technology remains part of an all-of-the-above energy mix for our state.”

But the order might be too little, too late. Many coal executives have said low natural gas prices, not regulations, are the biggest threat to the coal industry.

In 2016, the coal industry employed 2,500 Hoosiers. That compares to 2,700 Hoosiers employed by the solar industry, according to a recent report from The Solar Foundation.

Jesse Kharbanda, director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, say President Trump’s executive order stands against the American ideals of “leadership and courage, innovation and resilience.”

“[The plan] will be methodically weakening the American response to climate change and not offering any compelling alternatives,” Kharbanda says. “And I think that sends the wrong message to our allies and partners.”

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