President Trump’s pragmatic pick for Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt, has made it clear that he wants to quickly scrap two of the Obama administration’s signature environmental rules: the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.
This is good news for millennials.
The Clean Power Plan is wishful thinking at best and would be disastrous in practice. The plan aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electrical power generation by 32 percent by 2030 (from 2005 levels). This would target coal-burning power plants while increasing renewable energy and energy conservation. The EPA defended the rule by saying that the annual benefits would outweigh the costs. However, a study by NERA Economic Consulting estimated that the EPA miscalculated the costs by about $32 billion, and the Manhattan Institute argued that the benefits were “massively overstated.”
Practically speaking, the rule would close down most cheap coal-fired power plants for more expensive and less reliable sources like solar and wind, dramatically driving up the cost of electricity.
This would dig millennials deeper in a hole. An analysis of Census data in 2015 found that one in four US renters spend half of their pay on rent and utilities. Roughly 72 percent of millennials rent an apartment or condo, according to a report from Trulia. As a result, any spike in electricity prices hits close to home for millennials.
At the same time, since every sector runs on electricity, the costs of goods and services would also rise, leaving millennials with even less jingle in their pockets.
Meanwhile, WOTUS would make nearly all wetlands, including small ponds and ditches, subject to EPA regulation. It would thus increase red tape and stunt development. According to the EPA’s own projections, the finalized WOTUS rule will cost Americans between $158 million to $465 million a year. While these costs directly affect small businesses and landowners, they would also translate to higher rent, fewer jobs, and more expensive goods and services.
Pruitt, who sued the EPA fourteen times during his career before his appointment to the role, is taking an ax to the rules by questioning the EPA’s ability to implement them. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he noted he would immediately begin the process to “withdraw” the rules. He further commented the question the EPA will first consider regarding the Clean Power Plan is “does the EPA even possess the tools, under the Clean Air Act, to address this?”
Both rules are currently caught up in court battles, giving Pruitt even more of an impetus to toss them on the basis of their legality. If these two potential roadblocks go by the wayside as promised, millennials will have dodged a major bullet. On the other hand, if the courts are left to decide, we’ll have to continue to hold our breath.