The time is now to harness American ingenuity to address and lead the fight against this global challenge.
Today I sent a letter to Acting Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Andrew Wheeler urging him to abandon the EPA’s proposed replacement of the Clean Power Plan to prop up the coal industry.
Here is the full text of the letter:
The Honorable Andrew Wheeler
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460
Dear Acting Administrator Wheeler,
According to reports, the Environmental Protection Agency is planning to abandon and replace the Clean Power Plan with a shameless and misguided giveaway to the fossil fuel industry and its lobbyists. While this latest assault on progress — by an agency created to protect the environment, no less — is unsurprising given the Trump administration’s earlier reckless decisions to withdraw from the Paris accords and rollback fuel efficiency standards, it is no less alarming. Fossil fuels, and coal in particular, foul the air we breathe, harm our families, and threaten our environment. Propping up the dying coal industry also cedes future economic leadership to China in the hugely lucrative field of renewable energy. The proposed plan would be a mistake any way you look at it.
We have all read the headlines: 2018 is the fourth-warmest year on record — the top three were the last three years. But the period between May and July of this year was the hottest ever recorded, about 3.4 degrees above average. California’s wildfires are the largest in history. We have seen increasingly intense flash flooding and storms here in New York as well. Sea levels have gone up three inches since 1993, and are projected to rise at a much faster rate in the years ahead. Around the world, heat waves on four continents have caused electricity grids to crash. Something is obviously happening.
The time is now to harness American ingenuity to address and lead the fight against this global challenge. Instead, in a summer of raging wildfires and extreme storms, following the worst hurricane year on record, the Trump administration is inexplicably failing to protect Americans from a serious threat to our health and security.
That is why we in New York are taking bold action and demonstrating that there is a better way. We are requiring the closure of all coal-fired power plants in New York State by 2020 and turning our efforts towards clean energy. We have already announced that we will reduce emissions 40% (from 1990 levels) by 2030 and 80% by 2050. Our Clean Energy Standard requires that 50% of our electricity will come from renewable sources by 2030. To that end, we recently announced the largest investment in renewable energy by any state in history: $1.4 billion in new investment spread across 26 new clean energy projects, with more to come. As a result of these and other efforts, we now have in New York State over 140,000 quality jobs in areas such as solar power, wind power and energy efficiency.
The Trump administration has the opportunity to provide similar economic opportunities and environmental benefits to all Americans, rather than propping up an obsolete industry. Tragically, however, the EPA’s plan will lead to more pollution from coal-fired power plants, threatening the health of all Americans. Asthma and respiratory illness will rise, with families who live near coal plants suffering the brunt of it. Dirtier air will cause more emergency room visits, the costs of which will be passed on to all of us. The elderly and the poor will suffer in particular. New Yorkers will pay an especially high price for the proposed coal giveaway. As a downwind state, we are on the receiving end of the pollution that drifts from coal-fired power plants in neighboring states. Many non-partisan scientists and public servants in EPA could confirm this if they were not being silenced by ideologues in the Trump administration.
The EPA’s proposed plan will also hurt Americans economically. China is already looking to the future with massive investments in renewable energy while the Trump administration continues to look backward. All to enrich a dying industry, whose real beneficiaries are the lobbyists who thrive in President Trump’s administration. Since 2000, fossil fuel lobbyists have outspent environmental groups by a factor of ten to one.
I urge you to change course, for everyone’s sake.
Climate change and the economic and health benefits of clean energy do not need to be partisan. The biggest problems in our history were solved by all of us, working creatively and collaboratively. The Clean Water Act that did so much to help Americans was signed by President Nixon. California once had the dirtiest air in the world, in the 1950s, but since then, a succession of Republican and Democratic Governors, including Ronald Reagan, helped find ways to fight pollution and save lives. The results speak for themselves. That’s what good leaders do — they work together to help people.
But if President Trump and his administration will not lead, then the states will step up. Already, we are working together in creative new ways. We have no choice. After President Trump abandoned the Paris Accord, New York led in the creation of the US Climate Alliance, supported by seventeen governors. Together we represent $9 trillion in GDP — enough to be the third largest economy in the world.
Americans are not waiting out this emergency, they are already doing what needs to be done. The U.S. Department of Defense routinely plans for rising sea levels in its long-term planning. Insurance adjusters calculate the expected costs of climate effects in their policies. These are not Republicans and Democrats, they are simply realists, working together to solve a problem. At a moment like this, we need the same realism from leaders in Washington. Sadly, based on the Trump administration’s record to date, we fear we already know what the answer will be.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo