Trump energy rules draw flak at Chicago hearing

The president’s Affordable Clean Energy plan ‘is not affordable, and it is not clean,’ says AG Lisa Madigan

 Attorney General Lisa Madigan attacked President Trump’s Affordable Clean Energy plan at a Chicago protest Monday, saying, “It is not affordable, and it is not clean.” (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Attorney General Lisa Madigan attacked President Trump’s Affordable Clean Energy plan at a Chicago protest Monday, saying, “It is not affordable, and it is not clean.” (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s only nationwide public hearing on proposed new energy emission rules drew protesters from across the state to Chicago on Monday — including a group of Girl Scouts from Pleasant Plains.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan testified at the hearing, held at the Metcalf Federal Building, and had harsh criticism for what the Trump administration calls its Affordable Clean Energy proposal.

“It is not,” Madigan told protesters during a midday break in the hearing at Federal Plaza in Chicago. “It is not affordable, and it is not clean.”

Madigan labeled it part of a systematic plan by President Trump to undermine EPA reforms on coal-burning power-plant emissions under the Obama administration. She compared it to similar environmental rollbacks under President George W. Bush when she first took office in 2003.

“Then as now, the U.S. EPA was unwilling to uphold federal environmental laws,” she said, adding that her staffers “have fought against dangerous policies and nonexistent enforcement of our environmental laws at the federal level.

“ACE will not reduce carbon pollution,” Madigan said. “Instead, it will lead to an increase in the emission of harmful pollutants.” She called it “a full retreat in our battle against climate change.”

The EPA announced the ACE rule, setting dramatically reduced emission requirements for power plants burning fossil fuels, at the end of August.

 Members of Pleasant Plains Girl Scout Troop 6195 pose with Attorney General Madigan after Monday’s protest in Chicago. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Members of Pleasant Plains Girl Scout Troop 6195 pose with Attorney General Madigan after Monday’s protest in Chicago. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Michael Mikulka, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 704, representing 800 Midwest EPA workers, said by every measure Trump’s ACE made far fewer demands on improved air quality than President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, adopted in 2015. He said it also allowed loose deadlines on even those greatly reduced standards.

“The EPA should be protecting our air by proposing rules to reduce harmful emissions and enforcing the Clean Air Act,” Mikulka said. “Your health will suffer if the CPP is repealed and replaced by ACE.”

According to Mikulka, the EPA has deliberately lost 105 workers in the Midwest since Trump took office, and left $3 million of its budget unspent in the fiscal year that ended Sunday.

“With far less people, you can’t do as much,” he said, “and our workload hasn’t gone down.”

State Rep. Juliana Stratton of Chicago, J.B. Pritzker’s lieutenant-governor running mate in the upcoming gubernatorial election, said the new policies were political.

“We have no intention of following Donald Trump backward on anything,” she said, “but especially when it comes to clean energy and the actions of climate change.

“Donald Trump, we say no to your dirty power scam,” Stratton added.

“Illinois will not follow Trump backward,” echoed Dulce Ortiz, of Clean Power Lake County. She said the new regulations could have a cataclysmic effect on her hometown of Waukegan, where they have a 1920s-era coal-burning plant and five EPA Superfund sites from abandoned workplaces.

“Illinois is dependent on many outdated power plants that affect communities like mine,” she added. “Communities like Waukegan can’t wait any longer, the time is now.” She repeated the same phrase again and again, insisting the same goes for the neighborhoods of Little Village and Altgeld Gardens in Chicago, the towns of Peoria and Alton downstate, and Metro East near St. Louis as well as other border towns near Wisconsin.

The Rev. Tony Pierce, of Illinois People’s Action, said protesters briefly disrupted Monday’s hearing. He added that the EPA’s own estimates are that the ACE regulations would lead to 1,400 additional deaths a year by 2030.

A handful of Girl Scouts from Troop 6195 in Pleasant Plains outside Springfield also joined in the protest, as the troop has made protecting the environment its mission. The girls led a chant at the end of Monday’s protest, calling on people to “love your world.”

The protesters urged those unable to attend Monday’s hearing — the only one scheduled nationally for public comment on the proposal — to post their comments online on the EPA website before the Oct. 31 deadline as the government considers going forward on Trump’s ACE plan.