Bennet on Trump climate order: Administration ‘operating in theater of the absurd’

Author: John Tomasic - March 31, 2017 - Updated: March 31, 2017

Ponnequin Wind Farm near Carr, Colo. (Ed Andrieski/AP)
Ponnequin Wind Farm near Carr, Colo. (Ed Andrieski/AP)

In a prelude to the introduction of his climate-change targeting “Clean Air, Healthy Kids Act,” on Wednesday, Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet delivered a trademark floor speech in which he sought to underline what he sees as another in the steady stream of absurd turns taken by policymakers in Washington. His target this time was the executive order on climate issued by President Trump the day before.

“Even with all the dysfunction in Congress, somehow the American people continue to expect Washington to enact policies that will bear some relationship to the challenges they face,” Bennet begins. “Unfortunately, the administration’s new executive order on energy fails even to meet that low bar.

“This executive order will not expand energy production, make us more energy independent, or create American jobs,” Bennet said. “The United States was already on track to achieve energy independence. Colorado has been a big part of America’s growing energy independence, and by extension, to our national security…. If the President was serious about energy independence, he would support our approach. Instead, he is trying to undermine it with this new order.

“This Administration is not operating in reality,” he said. “It is operating in the theater of the absurd, where policies have no relationships to problems, facts don’t matter, and false promises to struggling Americans are just another political tactic to win a cable news cycle.”

Bennet’s “Clean Air, Healthy Kids Act” would rescind Trump’s executive order. The bill drew 30 Democratic co-sponsors in the Senate.

The executive order seeks to roll back Obama-era measures aimed at combatting climate change. The order rescinds rules on carbon emissions, lifts a moratorium on federal coal leases and ends the requirement that federal officials consider the impact of climate change when issuing regulatory decisions.

Coal country West Virginia U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito lauded the move.

“President Trump kept his promise to roll back one of the most harmful acts of overreach by the Obama administration — the so-called Clean Power Plan. If fully implemented, the Clean Power Plan would have completely decimated West Virginia’s vital coal industry while having no meaningful climate impact,” she wrote in a statement.

Republican state lawmakers fiercely resisted the Clean Power Plan in Colorado, but Democrats, including Gov. John Hickenlooper, just as fiercely supported it, at least in its goals, and took up action to implement a state version. Progress on implementation continues.

Bennet also sent a letter with Democratic senators from five additional Western states — California, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington — urging President Trump to rethink his position.

The executive order “does not account for the job benefits of the clean energy economy in the West,” the letter authors write. They detail the way the boom in hydraulic fracturing across the West has led natural gas and renewable energy to supplant coal as a top energy source. And they explain why they believe the order will lead to future job loss.

“With 99 percent of wind turbines located in rural areas, wind jobs are up. Last year, solar employment grew 17 times faster than the rest of the economy,” reads the letter. “Collectively, the wind and solar industry accounts for nearly 144,000 jobs and more than $83 billion in existing capital investment in our Western states. The economic potential for renewable energy is growing nation-wide, with solar and wind expected to account for more than 550,000 jobs nationally by 2020. Some of the greatest potential is in the West. The energy efficiency industry provides the largest source of energy jobs in the country, employing 2.2 million Americans in 2016… It is imperative that we do not put policies in place that take these jobs away.”

John Tomasic

John Tomasic

John Tomasic is a senior political reporter for The Colorado Statesman covering the Colorado Legislature.

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