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EPA trots out climate-denying coal baron to argue why Obama’s climate rule should be repealed

Robert Murray argued that the rule would have decimated the coal industry and driven up energy costs for consumers.

Robert Murray. CREDIT: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File
Robert Murray. CREDIT: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File

CHARLESTON, WEST VIRGINIA — One of the first speakers to testify during the Environmental Protection Agency’s only public hearing on the repeal of the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s signature climate policy, was Robert Murray, a coal executive and staunch Trump supporter with a long history of climate science denial.

During his testimony Tuesday, Murray — who founded Murray Energy, the largest privately-owned coal company in the United States — repeatedly referred to the Clean Power Plan as the “No Power Plan,” arguing that the regulation would have decimated the coal industry and resulted in higher energy costs for consumers.

Testimony at the hearing was open to the general public, who were asked to register with the EPA a few weeks ago. But Murray was given a prime speaking slot — going fifth during a two-day process that is set to include over 200 speakers — perhaps reflective of his influence within the Trump administration.

Murray has been a longtime supporter of President Donald Trump, hosting an invitation-only fundraiser for Trump during the presidential campaign and donating $300,000 to his inauguration. He also reportedly gave Trump an “industry action plan” last January, listing various requests for action within the Trump administration. Repealing the Clean Power Plan was on that wish list. 

Murray also railed against the Obama administration’s so-called “war on coal,” incorrectly asserting that the administration caused the loss of 63,000 coal jobs and the closure of 411 coal-fired power plants. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the coal industry lost around 30,000 mining jobs between 2008 and 2016, due to a combination of environmental regulations, increased automation in mines, and the cheap price of natural gas and renewable energy. Murray was also off on his number about coal-fired power plants closing; according to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, 262 coal-fired power plants have closed or announced plans to close since 2010.

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This is hardly the first time that Murray has used his newfound influence with the Trump administration to spout misleading or incorrect information about climate change and environmental regulations. Murray has repeatedly stated that the Clean Power Plan would have raised the cost of energy for consumers, despite studies showing that the plan would have likely resulted in lower energy costs, as well as significant public-health related savings. All told, one study put the estimated annual savings to taxpayers from the Clean Power Plan at around $38 billion.

Murray has also claimed that carbon dioxide isn’t a pollutant, and that Democrats are trying to make money off of climate change.

Despite concerns over the cost of energy regulation, Murray has been a fierce advocate of Secretary of Energy Rick Perry’s proposed rule that would pay power plants that keep a 90-day supply of fuel on-site — a rule that would actively benefit coal and nuclear energy. The rule would pass the burden of those costs onto consumers, essentially forcing taxpayers to pay to keep old coal-fired power plants afloat.