With this Tuesday’s meeting on whether to keep the United States in the Paris agreement shaping up as a showdown for an ideologically divided White House staff, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt fanned the flames last week by declaring that the country should depart the landmark global accord.
“It’s something we need to exit in my opinion,” Pruitt told Fox & Friends last Thursday. “It’s a bad deal for America. It was an America second, third, or fourth kind of approach. China and India had no obligations under the agreement until 2030. We front-loaded all of our costs.”
That claim earned a coveted Four Pinocchios rating from Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler. “Pruitt appears to be stuck in a time warp. His concerns might have made more sense if he had been referring to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol,” Kessler writes. But when it comes to the Paris deal, “if that’s his biggest problem, it’s solved! His objection is based on a misunderstanding of the agreement: China and India are already hard at work at meeting goals set for 2030,” with GHG reduction targets of 60 to 65% and 30 to 35%, respectively, per unit of GDP.
But Pruitt’s will be only one voice a contentious decision on Paris that has become “a major point of dispute between the moderate and nationalist wings of the White House,” Politico reports. While the timing and participants’ list for the meeting are still in flux, Pruitt and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon are expected to argue for the U.S. to exit Paris, while Economic Director Gary Cohn, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster argue for staying. Energy Secretary Rick Perry is also expected to attend.
Citing two different sources, Politico says Pruitt is “concerned that the Paris agreement could harm his legal position as he pushes forward with a repeal of Obama’s climate change regulations for power plants.” Other administration officials counter that, as a voluntary agreement, Paris will have no impact on Pruitt’s attack on the Clean Power Plan and other climate regulations.
While fossil lobbyists have been urging the White House to stay in the agreement but weaken the U.S. carbon reduction commitment, Politico cites the arch-conservative Heritage Foundation as a strong advocate for a clean break. “If Trump allows this deal to go forward, he will unwittingly fulfill Hillary Clinton’s arrogant and dastardly promise to put every coal miner in America out of a job,” fellow Stephen Moore and research associate Timothy Doescher recently claimed—despite ample evidence that the U.S. coal industry has been shedding jobs for many years, and now faces price competition from renewable energy and natural gas.
Meanwhile, in another appearance last week, Pruitt travelled to Harvey Mine, part of the Bailey Mine complex in western Pennsylvania, to talk about the Trump administration’s plans to revive coal. Harvey, owned by 153-year-old Consol Energy, opened in 2014 when many other coal mines were closing. But the Bailey complex has paid out millions in mine safety and water contamination fines in the last decade.
“Granted, it would be a challenge to find an American mining operation that hasn’t broken environmental laws or struggled financially over its lifetime,” notes New Republic correspondent Emily Atkin. “But Harvey Mine is a bad symbolic choice for yet another reason: It’s owned by a company that wants to get out of the coal mining business altogether.”
In a petition drive, NextGen Climate is challenging Presidential Advisor and first daughter Ivanka Trump to live up to her reputation as a supposed climate supporter within her father’s administration.
“To date, you have remained on the sidelines as your father signed executive orders allowing polluters to poison our air and water. Now, you face the biggest test of your sincerity: will you publicly support the United States staying in the Paris climate accord?” the organization asks. “Now that you are an official advisor to the president, it’s time you speak up.”