236 Mayors Urge EPA Not to Repeal U.S. Clean Power Plan

The mayors, representing 51 million people across 47 states, told Scott Pruitt the emissions rules are needed to protect their cities from climate change.

Hurricanes wrecked havoc on Houston and other U.S. cities in 2017.  Credit: Erich Schlegel/Getty Images
Scientists have warned for years that global warming is raising sea level and exacerbating heat waves, droughts and extreme weather like hurricanes. Credit: Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

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Hundreds of U.S. mayors, representing one in seven Americans, have told EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt that they need the Clean Power Plan’s emissions rules in order to fight climate change and protect their cities.

In a letter released on Tuesday, 236 mayors from 47 states urged Pruitt not to repeal the plan, which was a centerpiece of President Obama’s effort to tackle climate change by cracking down on emissions from electric power plants. The rule has been in limbo during litigation, and President Trump wants it revoked, as Pruitt has proposed to do.

“We strongly oppose the repeal of the Clean Power Plan, which would put our citizens at risk and undermine our efforts to prepare for and protect against the worst impacts of climate change,” the mayors wrote.

The group included the mayors of cities like Orlando, Houston and New Orleans that have suffered the ravages of storms and floods linked to a warming climate. It also included the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, who was hosting Pruitt’s latest hearing on the rules Wednesday.

On Twitter, Kansas City Mayor Sly James said the Clean Power Plan “benefits communities across the country.”

The rules, which were imposed in 2015, aimed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 32 percent by 2030. Pruitt, who had fought the proposal in court for years, began working to overturn it shortly after being confirmed as EPA administrator. The EPA is collecting public comment until April 26 about how and whether to replace the regulations.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's tweet on the Clean Power Plan

In the letter, the mayors cited an EPA study that said tens of thousands of additional deaths could occur in the United States if global warming is not held to 2 degrees Celsius, the international climate goal that the Clean Power Plan is meant to help achieve.

They warned of high costs to cities unless climate change is reined in.

“On our current path, the annual cost of coastal storm damage is expected to climb as high as $35 billion by the 2030s; coastal property valued at $66 to $106 billion will likely be underwater by 2050,” the mayors wrote.

Any delay would be costly.

A study released Tuesday found that every five-year delay in reaching peak greenhouse gas emissions would lock in an additional 8 inches of sea level rise by the year 2300.

“Man-made climate change has already pre-programmed a certain amount of sea-level rise for the coming centuries,” said the study’s lead author, Matthias Mengel of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “For some, it might seem that our present actions might not make such a big difference—but our study illustrates how wrong this perception is.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's tweet on the Clean Power Plan

A study released earlier this month had similarly dire warnings about sea level rise, showing with satellite data how sea level rise is accelerating. It found that by the end of the current century, coastal communities could see an additional four inches of sea level rise each decade.

Across the country, states and cities have taken action to combat climate change, either through adaptation measures, or by filing lawsuits—as in coastal California and New York City—that aim to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for climate change impacts.

But the mayors say they can only do so much.

“The legal authority of cities and other municipalities generally extends only as far as their state governments and federal law allow, and as a result, our local efforts to address climate change are highly sensitive to national policies like the Clean Power Plan, which shape markets, steer state action, and have large direct impacts on nationwide emissions,” the mayors wrote.