The Unseen Casualties Of EPA’s Climate Agenda

Since the Environmental Protection Agency, unilaterally and without congressional authorization, conferred on itself the power to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant, many changes have taken place in America, with few of them related to the climate.

As a prime example, one study shows that the total number of coal-mining jobs in the United States dropped from about 81,000 in 2008, to around 77,000 by 2013. At the same time, we have 40,000 fewer high-wage jobs, as total power-plant jobs fell from 137,000 to 97,000.

Whole communities, from Appalachia to the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming, dependent on coal and power plant jobs, have been decimated, leaving workers without jobs or income, families without futures, children without hope for a better life. And this was before the EPA’s controversial and costly Clean Power Plan, the latest blow they now want to bring down on many of these same communities.

The Clean Power Plan shows EPA and its environmental allies have little sympathy for these industries and the people and the communities that depend on them. The EPA continues to pursue unrealistic climate goals while ignoring that this effort will yield little or no change in the Earth’s climate, while costing American taxpayers and electric ratepayers billions that might otherwise have been spent to build communities and better futures.

While the direct damage to coal mines and power plants is easily apparent and quantifiable, the indirect damage to low-income communities across the nation is less obvious. In fact, it has been completely ignored by EPA and the environmental movement. And despite valid concerns over the shrinking middle class and the rise in the number of chronically poor people, the costly plan will fall hardest on those who can least afford to pay more for electricity – the low income, largely African-American towns and cities.

Today, Dr. Charles Steele Jr. is raising awareness of their plight. As president and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Dr. Steele narrates a video highlighting the real-life effect of the Clean Power Plan on families and whole communities. The video, which can be found at, dramatizes the depth and severity of the plan’s effects far beyond the coal mines and fields of Appalachia and Powder River. It interviews local leaders and ordinary citizens in small communities hard hit by skyrocketing light bills and shuttered power plants.

It’s a poignant and telling commentary, by people who know from experience about the collateral damage that the media and Washington’s regulators choose to ignore. But, perhaps most important, the video provides credible and undeniable proof that the damage to Americans’ livelihoods and quality of life from EPA’s carbon rules will be all too real, and almost certainly irreversible.

Many of these communities have been all but forgotten by national political leaders eager to chase questionable environmental goals or build a personal legacy. In many cases, they are the same communities left behind when the economy booms, but who suffer most when things go bad or government overreaches. They are the least able to cope with economic downturns, much less with the rising costs of everyday life unfairly and unnecessarily imposed on them by their own government.

And, they are not limited to the African-American communities. They exist across the country, in rural areas, small towns and big cities.

Dr. Steele does not advocate abandoning our pursuit of a clean environment. But the testimony he brings from those less fortunate should give pause to those who pursue environmental policies without regard to the burden they will place on others. Dr. Steele urges us to make greater efforts to craft policies that are realistic, achievable, and above all balance benefits and costs in a way that doesn’t deepen the divide between the affluent and the poor.

Terry M. Jarrett was appointed to the Missouri Public Service Commission in 2007. He served as chairman of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ Committee on Critical Infrastructure. He wrote this for