Coal baron and noted friend-of-Trump Robert Murray appeared Tuesday night on the usually staid PBS NewsHour, where he spouted climate science denial and urged the administration to reverse its finding that carbon dioxide is a pollutant — a finding that concurs with the overwhelming scientific evidence.
Murray’s appearance came as the Environmental Protection Agency announced it would revoke the Obama-era rule to curb carbon emissions from the electricity sector, one of the items on a wishlist presented by Murray to the Trump administration in January.
Murray appeared in a segment unironically titled, “What revoking the Clean Power Plan means, from both sides.”
Former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, who signed the Clean Power Plan, represented the side that opposes its repeal. Murray represented a “different view,” supporting the EPA’s move.
It’s no surprise that Murray’s view dovetails with that of President Donald Trump. Murray has close ties to the current administration. He was an active fundraiser and supporter of the Trump campaign and donated $300,000 to Trump’s inauguration fund.
That money appears to be well-spent. Since Trump took office, Murray has repeatedly met with administration officials, including at least three times with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. One former lobbyist for his company, Murray Energy, the largest coal company in the United States, was recently nominated to the no. 2 position at the EPA.
Murray has also met with Energy Secretary Rick Perry, whom Murray pressed for an executive order to keep coal plants from closing, although analysis from the Department of Energy — under Trump — has shown that coal plant closures are predominantly driven by the fact that coal is increasingly uneconomical, not by a regulatory “war on coal.”
Murray recently told E&E News that the administration has achieved nearly half the agenda items he presented at the beginning of the year.
The Clean Power Plan was expected to save American taxpayers $38 billion a year, largely through improved health outcomes, but also from lower energy costs. Renewable energy and natural gas prices have dramatically declined in the United States over the past decade.
On NewsHour, Murray spoke extensively about energy poverty in the United States and subsidies for wind and solar. He did not mention that the coal industry benefits from mining on public lands — including through a loophole, newly reopened by Trump, that allows coal companies to reduce royalty payments to the taxpayers who own the land. Nor did he mention that coal is a major contributor not only to greenhouse gases, but also to dangerous ozone levels and other air pollutants.
In another sign of coal’s economic decline, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R), also a coal industry executive, recently asked the Energy Department to subsidize any power plant that uses coal.
Murray also said he supported repealing the EPA’s endangerment finding for carbon dioxide — a finding that requires the agency to regulate greenhouse gases.
“I have 4,000 scientists that tell me [CO2] isn’t a pollutant,” Murray claimed, before going on to insinuate that the Democratic Party is making money on promoting clean energy and killing coal.
“We have an energy poverty problem. We don’t have a climate change problem,” Murray said.
Climate change has been tied to strengthening hurricanes, such as Harvey, Maria, and Irma, which all recently caused devastation in the United States, and to increased risk of wildfire, such as the fires that are ravaging California’s wine country this week.